How to Lead a Purpose-Driven Work Life
Do you have a strong connection between your purpose and your daily work?
Recently I became curious about my own connection to purpose in my work and the impact this had on my energy levels, my focus and my general mood.
It should be easy for me. I run my own company, which has a focus on helping people to be happy at work. We do this through training people to be executive coaches and providing coaching and training. On the face of it, all of this work is purpose led. I do work which is personally rewarding and in the process have the privilege of seeing others learn.
And yet, often I find myself feeling overwhelmed with work, wondering how I am going to get everything done. I lose my spark as my focus shifts to trying to clear what’s on my to do list. In these moments, with emails flowing in and back-to-back meetings, purpose can feel illusive. It’s not just me. Many of my coaching clients are feeling under pressure and overwhelmed with work, losing their enjoyment of something they used to love.
Over the past few months I have been increasingly curious about this. How can we help people to be happy and purposeful at work?
There is a growing body of research and writing emerging about the role that purpose plays in healthy careers and organisations. We hear that ‘Millennials’ want a purpose led career and that organisations are moving towards being more purpose led.
New models of organisations put purpose at the centre and Simon Sinek’s work on “Why” puts purpose at the centre of organisations. Daniel Pink’s motivational model described in his book Drive and outlined in his brilliant RSA talk also talks about the role purpose plays in motivation for individuals at work.
In her work building purpose led teams in health and care, my friend and colleague Helen Sanderson is also exploring this. Providing care is a personal act, and without a sense of purpose could be a meaningless experience for both the career and the cared for.
I believe there is a lot to this and that ‘Millennials’ and these researchers and writers may have it right. By seeing the connection to purpose and values and living my working life through this I could bring more energy and passion which can, in turn, benefit others, my clients and my team. Even in our everyday and the mundane activities, finding a way to connect to our purpose or values may help to increase focus and lift energy. Maybe that connection is simply to do a good job in this next task, and the next, and by thinking this we are connecting to a value of doing a good job.
Watching Helen’s Ted Talk, reminded me about this connection and gave me some ideas about what I could do. I found myself following articles and blogs, which made this connection as well as the link between mindfulness and purpose. Eckhart Tolle suggests in his book “A New Earth” that there are three choices we have about how we see our work: to accept, to enjoy, to enthuse. This gives us a choice of how we see each task, and even in mundane tasks we could accept the task and wherever possible connect it to a value that is important to us or to a part of our purpose. Ask yourself, “What would change if I was mindful in the presence of each activity and connected that activity to my purpose?”
And so I set out to do this. The first thing I noticed is that the activity stopped feeling hard, it felt like something I felt okay about doing it and in some cases looking forward to it. Just by asking myself, how does this connect to my purpose and the purpose of others, I found new acceptance, energy and focus. This in turn led to a better outcome for the individuals impacted by the work I was doing.
This is an interesting key to finding a new way of ‘being’ with our workshop lives and accepting, enjoying and enthusing our work activities. It requires discipline to apply, but at least applying this discipline is better than putting up with a less than ideal approach to work.
What could you do to connect your work to your purpose, or increase your level of acceptance, enjoyment and enthusiasm with your daily working lives?
About the Author
Jean Balfour is Managing Director of Bailey Balfour and Programme Director of our ICF Accredited Coach Training Programmes (ACTP). Jean is passionate about helping people to have good conversations both at work and at home. She believes that coaching is a life skill and that you never regret learning to coach.