Recently I had a lunch meeting with a high-level executive from a company in town. I’ve known him for a while. He’s extremely sharp, skilled, and ambitious, so it’s no surprise he has advanced in his career throughout the years.
But it was a surprise when he said: “I have a good salary, a good title, and a lot of responsibility. But I feel so discontented. What’s wrong with me?”
As he went on, it sounded familiar. I’d often heard the same thing in the 100 hours I’d logged coaching people. Now he was sounding like my clients. Something was missing that needed to be found.
What was it?
It was a sense of purpose.
My job as a coach is to help clients listen to themselves, to hear the deeper story they’re telling. Often we’re too close to ourselves to hear the deeper stuff, so having someone trained in that way can help.
I can tell clients are short on purpose when they say things like:
“I don’t see the point of what I’m doing.”
“It’s like I’m just spinning my wheels. I can’t go on like this.”
“I feel guilty when I get my paycheck; what am I really there for?”
What I try to do is help them find the purpose that’s already there, but may be hidden from sight. Or sometimes identify a new purpose because the old one doesn’t fit anymore. Whether we’re uncovering what’s there or remaking what’s not, the act is beautiful and a little bit sacred. It’s one of the best things I get to do.
The reason purpose is so important is because purpose is the why behind what you do. If the why is off, then the what will be off, too. Ideally, you would identify your purpose and then create activities that fulfill the purpose. But if you don’t know your purpose, how will you know what activities to pursue?
On the other hand, a clear purpose directs you, inspires you, and keeps you going. Your purpose is the reason you do what you do. It gives meaning to your day. I heard of a janitor at a children’s hospital, who when describing her job, did not say her purpose was to “scrub floors and clean toilets” (her activities), but rather her purpose was to “keep children healthy.” Now that’s beautiful and sacred.
So what about you? Is purpose stirring inside of you?
If you don’t mind, I’ll ask a few coaching questions:
- What is your purpose at work?
- If you don’t know, what’s keeping you from identifying it?
- What would working from a strong purpose do for you?
- What would your life look like a year from now if you were working on purpose?
Your purpose is too important to ignore. It’s not a luxury, nice-to-have, or toy of the rich and famous. Finding your purpose is a necessity. If it’s missing, you need to find it.