In a previous post we looked at personal joy and energy as a medium for uncovering your personal purpose. But how can this be achieved, practically?
Here are five tips for doing work that matters to you:
Make a plan for what brings you energy:
Laurence McCahill, founder of The Happy Startup School, recounted his experience of working for a corporation where the suit just didn’t quite fit: “At 23 I’d learnt the valuable lesson that I’d never make much money working in a job I hated. Without any passion there was no energy.”
His suggestion? Start with a simple mind map, drawing out:
- What do you need?
- What are you good at?
- What gets you excited?
- What will you never do again?
Trust that the dots will connect:
Steve Jobs famously said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
It’s an important reminder to take small steps to happiness now, and trust the bigger opportunity will unfold when the time is right. Rethink every decision that feels wrong, because you could be taking baby steps down the long, wrong road.
Take the pressure off, at least initially
Blame the enthusiastic life coach, blame the over-hyped business press, blame our instant gratification culture… whichever way, we seem to expect overnight success, even when we may have spent the last 15 years building a career in the wrong area. If you make the change today, you probably won’t see the results tomorrow, but like everything – they will come with time.
Elizabeth Gilbert says it well in Big Magic: “To yell at your creativity, saying, ‘You must earn money for me!’ is sort of like yelling at a cat. It has no idea what you’re talking about, and all you’re doing is scaring it away, because you’re making really loud noises and your face looks weird when you do that.”
Start small, plan big. There is no need for everything to connect perfectly in the first instance. It’s okay to meet your financial needs in one way, your creative needs in another and your purpose in another. In time the lines will blur.
Treat yourself to a date
Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way program urges people to take themselves on “artist dates,” simple solo outings that provide the opportunity to reconnect to what you love. It could be an afternoon at an art gallery, a lunch break in a bookstore, or a dance class.
The point is to break out of the productivity mindset, and give yourself permission to a brief period of uninterrupted enjoyment. In the book, Julie recounts just how frequently people find excuses for not completing this part of the project – they are too busy or have other commitments. Watch your own limitations as you make excuses for standing yourself up on your artist’s date — and be prepared to learn a lot in self-awareness!
There are plenty of books and online guides telling you how to break the rules and do things your own way — a la The 4-Hour Workweek and the like. These hold lots of clues on escaping the corporate cage and living a pleasurable life. But without true meaning, it feels a bit empty, doesn’t it?
Carolyn Tate of The Slow School of Business says: “Purpose Projects have three essential ingredients. Firstly, they are about taking action towards a project that has an outcome and an impact. Secondly, the project is meaningful to us based on our passions, beliefs and values. Thirdly, the project is consequential for the world beyond the self. It’s restorative and regenerative for humanity and the planet.”
What’s more, a 2013 study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology showed that chasing meaning had more positive impact on people’s health than avoiding the discomfort of stress (via The Do Lectures Stress Report). Simply put, it’s not about avoiding hard work or discomfort, but working hard for the things you personally believe in.
In summary: Follow your nose. Connect the dots. Find your cross-section.
In my next post I’ll share how can we connect individual purpose to organisational purpose in order to do incredible work.
Johanna is the founder of Make Do Co., a business, culture and branding firm dedicated to helping meaningful businesses have impact. Make Do works with organisations to unearth their higher purpose; to build a culture of energy and quality; and to help them to tell their stories so powerfully, the world listens. We also host public retreats, workshops and events to promote a more meaningful way of living and working.