Why am I doing this?
The humdrum of our daily work can make us forget why we do what we do. Numbed by routine, dead-lines and endless to-do lists, we don't stop to look at the big picture, the purpose of our work.
I believe all work has a higher purpose, though sometimes it's difficult to see this objective for a variety of reasons. It might be that we are trying so hard to make ends meet, put food on the table and pay the bills, or perhaps we get so hooked on the money, power and fame it brings that we forget the goal. Sometimes, it's the deadlines that prevent us from seeing the bottom-line. Whatever the reason, we seem to end up caught in the drama of the details with seemingly no vision of the whole.
Could there be a correlation between this tunnel vision and how engaged we are at work?
The latest Gallup poll has found a staggering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged in their work. This disengagement has at its source a lack of trust, not feeling appreciated and cared for and no sense of belonging or purpose. We spend so much time trying to survive and keep our heads above water that we lose touch with why we do the work in the first place. The consequence is devastating for the individual as well as the organisations that employ these individuals. On a personal level, engagement does not directly equate to happiness. However, when we are fully engaged in our work - meaning passionate about what we do and feel a profound connection to it - we have a sense of belonging and purpose, which I believe, can only be a positive step towards our overall well-being. An employee who is engaged will drive results where others drag their heels.
So how do we get a sense of purpose?
Organisations need to invest in their employees. Gaining their trust, engagement and instigating a sense of belonging is not just a nice idea. If it is truly focused on increasing productivity, the purpose of the organisation should be clearly defined and implemented from the time potential employees are interviewed through to their daily contribution to that organisation.
As an individual, we need to be motivated by the cause itself - not just the reward it brings. It helps to formulate clearly what that is, and I would add, write it on a post-it note and stick it somewhere you can see everyday. An example would be: "I love my work as a project manager because I get to transform innovative and dynamic ideas into tangible results." or "The purpose of my job as a postman is that I connect people together." The idea is to feel that our work contributes greatly to the organisation as a whole, no matter how important our role within the organisation.
Finding purpose in our work is different to the mission statement organisations like to put on display - which is sometimes nothing more than a marketing slogan. It connects us to what we do on a deep and genuine level.
Perhaps this powerful story demonstrates what a true sense of purpose feels like:
Two Roman stone-masons were working side by side. When asked what they were doing, one replied he was merely chiselling away at a block of stone. The other proudly announced that he was building a temple.