Finding your Purpose
With one third of your life spent working, a purposeful career means everything.
What life do you want to live? How would you like to be remembered?
As children we have idealistic fantasies about a career, typically involving pursuits such as becoming a painter, a dancer, a fighter jet pilot or even a superhero. Yet in late teens and early 20s our career thinking usually turns more serious, and from mid-20s through the remainder of early adulthood we often seek to establish a career in a safe and secure profession, usually ignoring our dreams and passions.
In many societies today there are deep-rooted cultural beliefs that engaging in hardwork for long hours through adulthood will produce a path to status, security and happiness. Work defines people in fundamental ways, and many people define their identity through their work. However, research shows that too many individuals focus on short-term goals in navigating their career, and don’t explore the bigger, longer-term picture of what they want to do with their lives. This pursuit of short-term goals and incentives leads to longer-term issues of reaching middle adulthood and feeling trapped in a career that is unfulfilling, uninspiring and unenjoyable.
You will likely spend about one third of your life at work. That is a lot of days, weeks, months and years that could be wasted not fulfilling your potential and not finding a life pursuit that energises you. Pursuing a career path that you find purposeful and energising is not easy, but it is possible.
STEP 1: SELF-AUDIT
Knowing is the first step to doing. For you to pursue a more purposeful career you first have to know what that career is for you. Here are some questions to help you explore what you find purposeful and what energises you:
- What’s most important to you in your life and where do you most enjoy spending your energy?
- What do you think about and talk about most often?
- Why do you care about those things?
- Where are you consistently successful despite setbacks or challenges?
- What are your long-term goals?
- Why are these goals important to you?
- What does it mean to have a good life?
- What does it mean to be a good person?
- If you were looking back on your life, how would you like to be remembered?
- If money was no issue, how would you spend your time in a way that adds value to the world?
- What career path have you always considered but haven’t pursued?
- Why haven’t you considered or pursued a more preferred career path before now?
STEP 2: EXTERNAL AUDIT
Even when knowing what career they would find purposeful and energising, most people do not pursue their preferred career because of other life commitments. These commitments (or obstacles) come in many forms, for example financial commitments requiring you to earn a certain level of income, family commitments requiring a certain amount of your spare time, or social commitments requiring you to live in a certain location. Whatever they are for you, these commitments or obstacles can typically be overcome through planning, willpower and dedication.
- What commitments do you have to overcome or navigate to pursue a career you find purposeful and energising?
- How will you overcome these, what steps do you need to take?
STEP 3: TAKE ACTION
Knowing is the first step to doing, but doing is the first step to being. If you want to be in a different career you have to take action. You may need to take action to overcome any limiting beliefs that are holding you back from starting, such as not being good enough or not believing something is possible. Then take action to overcome the commitments or obstacles that may seem impossible but really just need a plan to navigate. Take just one small step each day towards your preferred career and over-time the small steps will get you where you want to be.
Santrock, J.W. (2014). Life span development. McGraw-Hill Education (Australia) Pty Ltd: NSW.
Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55(5), 469.