Laying Brick, or Building a Cathedral

work Jul 03, 2017

With all of this buzz about finding our “purpose”, there’s one thing that’s been missing from the conversation that is very important.

And that is… the power of context.

There are 3 levels of work - a job, a career, or your purpose. Let’s first distinguish between the 3 before we move on.

A job is something you do out of necessity. It is purely a means to an end. You show up just for the paycheck, and for the most part, you look forward to the day coming to an end.

A career is a bit more long-term. You see your job/role as part of a longer path or period of time. You want to get better at what you do, get promoted, progress and develop in that role. This career, however, can be in anything. It doesn’t have to be one in which you leverage your natural talents or one that you are particularly passionate about. But you are drawn to keep advancing in whatever field you are a part of.

A purpose is something that is tied to your identity. You see, what you do is part of who you are - because you're "pouring your soul into it". And most likely, once you are operating at the level of purpose, you almost can’t see yourself doing anything else. At the level of purpose, you don’t need to motivate yourself because the motivation comes naturally. Some say this is considered being in the flow - or in the zone. At the level of purpose, you see your role as part of a much greater picture, and you can see how your work is a genuine contribution to others. And when you are tapping into your purpose, you’re most likely using your natural talents - those gifts that you have that you were meant to use - to make the world better in some way.

And why is it worth it to put in the effort to be operating at the level of purpose? Well, because what you do for work is the single greatest driver of your overall wellbeing and quality of life.

People with high purpose wellbeing are more than twice as likely to be thriving in life overall.

Why? Because it consumes the most hours of your life. Most likely you identify yourself with your work (it’s often the first question you get asked from strangers right?). And it’s the primary place or area of life where you have an opportunity to be developed by others (your peers and managers).

However, with all of that said, it’s not an easy task to identify your purpose - your mission - or your “calling.”

This is where the power of context comes in.

Having an authentic sense of purpose in life has very little to do with what your actual job or role is, and has almost everything to do with the way you perceive it - or said another way - the context in which you view that role.

A Yale psychologist, Amy Wrzesniewski studied how mental conceptions of our jobs affect performance. She found that there are doctors that see their work as only a job, and janitors who see their work as a calling because the meaning of your work is completely constructed by the individual. 

So how can you alter the mindset or context from which you view your work?

Re-write your job description.

Literally, take the time to think about how you would write about what you do in a way that instills a sense of purpose.

Ask yourself the following:

  • What are some of your biggest dreams in life?
  • How can you backtrack from those dreams to see how your current job can help lead you to that?
  • What key lessons are you learning about life through your current role?
  • What is your current job teaching you about yourself?
  • How does your role contribute to the mission of the company?
  • How do you make your customers lives better? What would they say after interacting with you?
  • What role do you play on your team? Is your purpose to help people work together better, more amicably, more productively?
  • What does the result of your daily tasks lead to?

No matter how small the task, there’s always a way to connect it to something you care about.

See the key is not just to find your purpose, you must also learn to find purpose in your work.

And in doing so, you will find the hidden gems of life that exist in the present. You’ll start to notice how everything you’re doing right now, has meaning and adds value to your life. You’ll stop only looking forward to the future, and you’ll savor everything there is to learn in the moments… today. 

Steve Jobs is famous for this quote:

"You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future."


Use the comments below to let us know what's the ONE thing that is getting in your way of finding your purpose, or finding purpose in your work? What challenge are you facing? What ONE question do you have?

Want to get notified of the next blog post?

Click the button below to get free wellbeing resources and the latest content.

Yes, Keep Me Updated!

50% Complete

Wellbeing Hacks, Straight to Your Inbox!

Enter your name and email below to get FREE updates.