How To Find Purpose In Your Job (No Matter What You Do)
After three months of maternity leave, I had gone back to work, and things just didn’t feel right. I was in a major funk. I couldn’t put my finger on the issue. All I knew was that this business that I had built from scratch wasn’t lighting me up anymore.
I started to think maybe there was no right path. Maybe the problem was me.
And that panic led to a whole other kind of panic. Here I am with a brand-new baby, and I’m thinking about starting over. What is my husband going to think when I tell him I want to change careers — again?
I envisioned myself standing in front of a basement full of strangers with cold coffee and uncomfortable folding chairs saying, "Hi, I'm Cailen, and I'm a serial entrepreneur."
I had been starting and leaving businesses since the age of 14, and I was still looking for “my thing” at nearly 30. I started to think maybe there was no right path. Maybe the problem was me.
After five months in this funk, the answer hit me like a bolt of lightning. It wasn’t about closing up shop and starting over. It was about reconnecting to my purpose and infusing that into my business.
That was the beginning of the most fulfilling career I've ever had. Over time, like a ship of Theseus, my business took on new depth and meaning while retaining its identity.
From the outside, all that changed was the design of my website, my head shot, the opening copy. But from my perspective, everything had changed. I had imbued my everyday grind with a sense of purpose simply by changing my perspective. Here's how you can do the same:
1. Align with something bigger.
There are two ways to look at a business: in isolation or as part of something bigger. If you’re feeling disconnected from your work, you’re likely looking at your business in isolation. Instead, consider what greater good this work might be serving. Can your business provide compassion, joy, creativity, health, abundance, or fulfillment? Can you find ways to inject more of these things into your role?
When you see your work as an opportunity to make a difference, it will feel more and more rewarding over time.
2. Remember why you do what you do.
Reflect on why you started your business in the first place. Was it to help people live healthier lives? Share your story with the world? To support your family?
Now that you have your list, you can refer to it when you’re feeling disconnected. Write your favorite reasons on note cards and put them around your workspace as constant reminders of why you're there. It might even be rewarding to get a group of your co-workers or working friends together to share your reasons with one another.
3. Make space for opportunities.
If you feel confident that your purpose lies outside your current business, start finding ways to delve into it outside of work. If you've always dreamed of writing a novel, for example, start doing the research, or plan a coffee date with a writer you admire.
4. Live your days purposefully.
Imagine your most purposeful self: the you from the not-so-distant future, who is clear on her mission and aligned with her purpose. Tap into her wisdom and consult her when you’re feeling lost.
What products or services would she offer? What opportunities would she pursue? What kind of people would she surround herself with? How would she infuse more purpose into her life? How would she explain the work she does? What is her reason for doing what she does? What is the bigger force she’s aligned with in her business?
When you approach your work from a place of purpose, you bring more meaning to everything you do. You start the process of becoming the version of yourself who can change the world with whatever pursuit she chooses.