In some business environments, discussing mental wellness and how COVID-19 has made us all feel all kinds of things such as uncertainty, frustration, fear and stress is starting to be less taboo. Yet, even in turbulent times, professionals are expected to know exactly what their purpose is at all times to feel important or risk losing face. This causes an unnecessary burden of stress on professionals who have to make sacrifices as they make efforts to stay on their journey toward fulfilling their purpose — especially during a time when there is record unemployment and a competitive career landscape as a result of the pandemic. But what about those professionals who feel even more lost about their purpose today? How do they align their purpose with their life and work?
Some will argue purpose is not entirely found in the job you pick or the career you choose, but in the overall choices you make every day in your life. Having worked with many executives, most who felt lost at one point or another, it boils down to a few simple questions one can ask to feel unstuck. What is certain is that it is very unique in every individual.
What is purpose? It is the sense that you are on the right track for the right reasons, and it is different for everyone. Is it a plan? It can be. Is it a general theme? Possibly. In most cases, it is. Does it change overtime? Definitely.
Whatever your purpose is, knowing it is important! Purpose leads to happiness and social connections that have positive benefits on our health. There is research that suggests that having a sense of purpose or direction in life may also be beneficial to living longer. The science is not exact, but a lot of evidence suggests the benefit of living longer may be because a sense of purpose protects our health against the harmful effects of stress.
If you feel stuck, do not worry. It is normal to not know. It is encouraged to reflect regularly to be in control. Here are seven questions to help you find clues to what your purpose is and get your mind thinking about what to do next.
- What was your favorite activity as a child? This question may sound silly, but think about those toys or games you played when you were younger. My guess is you probably still enjoy them today. Think about why you enjoyed playing them and how that made you feel. What was it about those toys or games that drew your attention? You probably developed some of the skills you use today from those early childhood pasttimes. Can any of those experiences open new opportunities where you can replicate how you felt then to the work you want to do in the future?
- What makes you happy as an adult? With so much negative news spiraling through our screens, I bet it would be easier to make a long list of things that make you unhappy. Well, that may be because we do not spend enough time thinking about what makes us happy. Make a list of everything you can think of that makes you happy. Then go back and circle some key words that stand out to you. See if there is a theme developing or an obvious choice for you to make. This simple exercise can be very revealing.
- What are you really good at? Many times professionals who feel stuck are simply in the wrong line of work. Utilizing your top skills and talents will help you feel like you are living at your full potential. Do you know what those are? Take a simple skills quiz online to get an idea. Another strategy is to think about some of the compliments you have been given in the past about work you do — volunteer or paid — and what do people say when you do it? Try developing a career or lifestyle where your skills and talents shine.
- If you won the lottery today, how would you spend it? This question is also known as having all the money in the world to do whatever you want. What would that be? Write down all the things that come to mind. Chances are you can do many of them without hitting the lottery or having a lot of money. If money is the obstacle, then find out how much and put together a plan to make it happen.
- If you had all the time in the world, what would you do? Like money, time is a resource and an excuse. What would you be doing if you had all the time to do it, without the worry of deadlines or commitments? Again, write down all the things that come to mind and you will start to see a picture of what your ideal lifestyle could be. Can you make changes to slowly incorporate some of those elements in your life or work today? It is a good question to ask yourself after you make your list.
- What does success mean to you? Stop comparing your success to others. True success is defined by an internal measure and it is also very unique to each individual. When you fantasize about your life as a successful person, what do you see? Who do you see? Where do you see yourself? What are you doing for work and play? How do you use your time and resources? Success is more than fancy cars and homes; it is how you choose to show up every day for life. You may already be successful and not even realize it.
- How do you want to help the world? This by far is my favorite question. It is the question that business empires are built from. Is there a problem or challenge you see in the world? Are you the right person with the right ideas to solve it? Now, be careful with this one because one cannot solve all the problems in the world; however, when a problem is solved it is hard to keep it a secret. Listen to other leaders speak about the problems they are tackling. As someone who regularly spends time reflecting on my own purpose and feeling very aligned to it, I can tell you that you will start to pick up on cues from other leaders to help you with your own self-direction. It is a magical experience when you can see others fulfilling their purpose in everything they do.
Here is the good news: You already know the answers to all of these questions. And it is okay to not have it entirely clear right now. But you do know. Try working through all these questions in a journal or diary and start developing the story you will tell about how you found your purpose. Through your own self-reflection and self-direction, you will inspire those around you.
If you are interested in joining our entrepreneur group to learn more, sign up for our bi-weekly Business Energizers! We discuss strategies, goals and resources in a virtual mastermind setting. The Business Energizers are held every other Monday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. You can register for free by visiting www.ccbsfoundation.org.
EDGAR RAFAEL OLIVO is a bilingual business educator, economic advisor and contributor for several media outlets. He’s a nonprofit executive who is passionate about education. He is certified in finance and data analytics and holds a business degree from Arizona State University.
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