No matter what age I am working with in the office, at one point or another the question of “What is my purpose?” comes into play. I find it with millennials, more often than not, lately as the financial investment in college is so encumbering, and they want to make sure that it is something that they can not only afford to do, but at the end of it they may end up with a degree that will give them purpose and satisfaction. I was speaking to one of my colleagues who attended a prominent local university and she shared the concerns were with great reason. Her university came with a $52,000/year price tag, and at the end of it, 1 out of every 2 graduates succeed in finding employment suitably matched to their degree. Apparently 50% is actually a better rate than most other universities are achieving. There is a new trend lately where students are starting to sue their programs for leaving them with a degree that does not lead to any prospective job opportunity. Some millennials are wisely approaching this dilemma with caution, and I have noticed that several are putting their education plans on pause while they take some time to figure out who they are, and what on earth is their purpose.
On another stopping point in the spectrum, I work with the 40 something group, who have had careers, done what they were “supposed” to do to bring income into the home, followed all the rules and expectations of their family and our society, but they feel empty. What they are doing does not fulfill them or give them a sense of meaning and they are looking for what’s next.
This question is a hard, yet very important, one to solve because each person is made with a unique personality, a unique set of learning styles, a unique energy level, a unique set of knowledge acquired over time, a unique set of passions, a unique set of talents, a unique set of rules about how they circumvent life, a unique set of rules about what they are willing to do, and a unique set of challenges they have overcome in their personal life to get them to where they are today. Finding meaning comes so easy to some, but for others it requires a deep set of introspection, taking inventory of all one’s "uniquenesses”.
What are the problems you have experienced in this world? Which of them have you found answers to that you might use to benefit others? What problems in this world can you not walk away from? They drive you…they call your name…they beg for your attention. What difference MUST you make in this world? Sometimes a career is more of a job...just money… or benefits (like insurance, and retirement) so that you can have the freedom to pursue your purpose outside of the workplace.
Once the “uniquenesses" are uncovered, how can one take them and shape them into a career that will give meaning to their own life, but also impact positively the life of another? Not only must your purpose link up with your passions, BUT purpose by its very definition must positively impact the lives of another person in order to be meaningful. People are created to be in community with one another, and although at times this may be one of the most challenging things we must accomplish on this earth, we do not accomplish the meaningful task of finding our purpose without it. However, by finding our purpose, we can accomplish the task of being in enjoyable community with others. They are linked…fortunately. The success of one yields the success of the other.
So how do you go about finding your purpose? Be patient with yourself. Pay attention to yourself. It has already been whispered to you, but sometimes you have to retrace your steps and really listen. Sometimes you soul knew its' calling, but others told you that it was not your talent, either because they did not recognize your talent or because of envy, jealousy, selfishness, or fear. Maybe you knew your calling, but you forgot it, or you feared it would not be enough, or you had some struggles or failings that caused you to give up on it. Maybe you experienced a life changing moment or challenge. Why you? Why the challenge?
Action Steps: Be patient with yourself. Make a list of your “uniquenesses”. Which of them bring you the most joy or the most excitement? Which ones call you into action? Pay attention to positive results and the lessons you have learned from the challenges you have overcome. Erase the words of others…. Erase your fears…Remember your dreams…Realize that failures are not reasons to quit-they are reasons to try again. Breathe. Pray. Be patient. "