It seems every second a social media post tells about someone else claiming to have found their “purpose in life”.
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They’re posing in front of their private jet or high-performance European sports car, whilst ensuring every labelled piece of clothing and accessory is also facing the camera lens for optimal evidence of their success.
Now, all power to these people if they truly believe they have “found their purpose” and are living their best life, if they’re healthy and care- and debt-free, surrounded by loyal and loving friends and family. Well done you!
Yet for some of these “social media snapshots of success”, the true story of the life behind the “instafamous life” is more often one of insecurity, debt and emptiness, and the posts are more of a subconscious cry for validation and acceptance. Even more disappointing are those fragile minds that see and follow these artificial life posts and then start comparing, feeling their lives (which are often filled with love, friends, family and meaning) don’t stack up to the current, overshared and advertised definition of success because they “haven’t found their purpose”.
If you have ever felt lost or inadequate because you believe you haven’t yet found your purpose in life, and the day-to-day is just mundane work and not purposeful, I’m here to give you a reframe of reality and some home truths about purpose.
Here’s the first thing: purpose is less of an archaeological dig, and more of an architectural build.
In more simple terms, it’s less about something you “find”, and more about something you “create”. For example, when it comes to your job or career, you can see this as your “work life”, or it can become your life’s work. It’s less about finding purposeful or meaningful work and a whole lot more about creating purpose and meaning in your work.
The second point I would like to clear up is that purpose is not about size or how much.
Big is not necessarily better. Purpose is less about showing off, and more about showing up. Take a single parent – in fact my late mother – as a great example. My mum spent most of her adult life raising me as a single parent. No flash job title, she just cleaned and cooked at the local hotel to make enough cash to put me through public schooling, put food on the table, and provide a rented roof over our head. She sacrificed much of her social life, her health and body through repetitive hard labour, and all her income for the sole purpose of parenting me.
Her life’s purpose was to raise me. She had no social media followers, no public events of praise, no recognition program to reward her efforts. What she did receive was immense intrinsic value and happiness watching her son grow up, and then delayed gratification as I went off into the world, having a positive impact on potentially hundreds, maybe thousands of people. Mum’s purpose was no less significant than mine. Yes, she only directly impacted one person, yet indirectly many more. Mum didn’t set off in life to be a single parent. Yet she was able to create and turn her work life into her life’s work.
As you can see by this example, big, more, or showy, is not necessarily better or more meaningful when it comes to your life’s purpose.
For professionals, finding your purpose in your work can be a fulfilling and meaningful journey. It often involves self-reflection, exploration and a willingness to adapt as you learn more about yourself and your interests. More often than not, purpose and meaning are found in the service of others, yet starts with a good understanding of ourselves. With this in mind, a good place to start is to reflect on the values, passions and interests that make you feel most engaged and enthusiastic.
Then consider your strengths, skills and talents. What are you naturally good at, and what do you enjoy doing the most? Can you incorporate these into your day to day whilst adding value and having positive impact on those you work with and/or assist?
Remember, we create our purpose, so stay patient and persistent, for it’s a gradual process that will evolve over time. It’s not a race or competition on who can find their purpose the fastest and broadcast it the most. It’s your personal journey, so don’t compare, and be patient with yourself, stay open to new experiences and prioritise what truly matters to you.
The most rewarding and important work you will ever embark on is your journey of self-discovery, creating your purpose and finding a means to live it out loud.
Your work life can be your life’s work and legacy.
Shane Kempton is Harcourts’ WA CEO.
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