In his great little book Life’s Great Question, Tom Rath talks about how to create more meaning in our lives by creating more meaning in our work.
Of course, having a sense of purpose is central to creating a life of meaning.
Tom makes the REALLY important point that our current concept of “purpose” can be a little off.
Let’s call it “Purpose 1.0.”
He tells us: “The idea that we should have one defined purpose is inadequate; that is a grand but impractical take on what we can expect from our work. And most discussion about purpose tends to downplay the actual value of the work people are currently doing. It almost suggests that if we really want to feel a sense of purpose in life, we have to either find a new job or look beyond work to engage in more meaningful ways to spend our time.”
He continues by saying: “In every job, there are opportunities to have a positive influence on the wellbeing of other people. Most of us are doing far more for others than we fully appreciate. We also have many opportunities to optimize the contributions we’re making and align them with what we find most fulfilling.”
As we briefly discussed in our last +1, the sub-title of the book “Discover How You Contribute to the World” implies an active, PRESENT-TENSE contribution we’re ALREADY making.
Tom makes the powerful point that we need to step back from the abstract, “one defined purpose” approach to purpose which is “grand but impractical.”
We’d be wise to step RIGHT INTO our current reality (and jobs!) and mine it for all its worth—recognizing just how much we’re ALREADY contributing as we more deliberately make the connection between our current work and our ability to serve individuals in meaningful ways.
We’ll talk more about how to do this in our next +1.
For now, let’s take a moment for a quick high-level reflection.
As I read this section, I wrote “Purpose 2.0” at the top of the page.
I imagined mashing up Barbara Fredrickson’s research on micro-moments of positivity resonance that form the basis of her wisdom in Love 2.0 with Teresa Amabile’s research on small wins that form the basis of her wisdom in The Progress Principle.
Fredrickson tells us that EACH moment of interaction offers surprisingly potent opportunities for Love (and all its benefits).
Amabile tells us that we don’t need to wait for the HUGE gains at work to feel great. In fact, she says, it’s the daily sense of making progress via small wins that leads to the highest level of satisfaction at work (and in life!).
Put them together and run them through the lens of purpose and we have Purpose 2.0: Micro-moments (and micro-wins!) of positive contributions.
All that to say: With the right mindset, we can feel the joy of living on purpose pretty much all day every day.
I say, let’s do that.