A Job, a Career or a Calling?

How to find meaning in what you do

Would you describe yourself as having a job, a career or a calling?

Before becoming a coach, I would envy people who were truly passionate about their work. People, who leaped out of bed every morning with oodles of energy to get to the task at hand. Granted, I didn’t know many people like that, but there were a select few that seemed to be getting paid to do what they loved. And, perhaps more significantly, who felt like they were truly making a difference; having a positive impact on the world around them.

So, I got to thinking why there aren’t more such people. People who feel their work has a greater sense of purpose. And then I stumbled across a book called, The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, one of the world’s leading experts on human potential, and designer and teacher of the famed ‘happiness’ course at Harvard. In it, Achor explains how our mindset is largely responsible for how we view and therefore experience our work.

But my work isn’t that important

Achor uses the example of two cleaners at a primary school. One cleaner sees only the mess he must clean up each night, whereas the other believes he is contributing to a cleaner and healthier environment for the pupils. On the one hand an arduous chore, on the other a vital part of the school experience.

How do you view what you do for a living? Have you ever considered how you might re-write your current job description to make your role as appealing as possible to another person? To turn everyday tasks into activities with real purpose. Try it. Keep it factual, but focus on the greater impact your work has, how it contributes to making something better.

Connecting your work with your values

If you’d like to take this further, Achor suggests an exercise that maps your current tasks to your personal values. So, you build a connection between what you do and what’s important to you. It goes like this. Turn a piece of paper horizontally, and on the left-hand side write down a task you’re required to perform at work that feels devoid of meaning. Then ask yourself: What is the purpose of this task? What will it accomplish? Draw an arrow to the right and write this answer down. If what you wrote still seems unimportant, ask yourself again: What does this result lead to? Draw another arrow and write this down. Keep going until you get to a result that is meaningful to you. In this way, you can connect every small thing you do to the larger picture, to a goal that keeps you motivated and energised.

If you’re a shop assistant and you hate having to re-fold and re-hang the clothes that people have tried on but don’t want, draw your arrow until you can connect it to something you do care about, like helping people feel happy and confident by finding just the right outfit for their shape, personality and lifestyle.

Now you don’t have to wonder if you’ll ever find your perfect calling. You can build a stronger sense of meaning in the work you already do.

If you’d like to read more, The Happiness Advantage can be bought on Amazon.

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