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Find your purpose – reassess what matters most and regain your motivation

Monopoly car on Chance

The challenge:

The world is a mess, or rather the world feels a lot messier than it did in 2019 – largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has been tough to deal with and yet deal with it still we must.

When will you return signage

It has been challenging in different ways. For some of us, working at home and staying at home so much has been oddly confusing, lonely and isolating. Some of us have been facing reduced hours or furlough, with a sense of Groundhog Day setting in and sapping us of energy. Some of us have had to deal with huge waves of change, requiring us to make a series of difficult decisions in an information vacuum, and feeling totally overwhelmed. And for some of us, we have had to jump up even more gears, work more frantically as demand has soared and resources have been pinched, re-doubling our efforts week after week, leaving us feeling tired, frustrated and very, very overworked. Some of us have faced a mix of these scenarios, or all of them, or more. And yet we need to carry on, lift ourselves up, get motivated and keep going.

The solution – find your purpose

There is no one way to get yourself going when faced with such troubling times. However, whether you are feeling lost, lethargic, stunned or weary, finding your purpose can give you a kick start. Whilst that sounds like a massive undertaking, finding purpose really doesn’t have to be that hard. You will need to take a break. Stop for a little while. Look at the bigger picture.

Man taking a break

Being purposeful is hugely motivating, it is good for our wellbeing and it helps in our interactions with others too. The idea of finding your purpose at work is founded on one simple key principle: we want to achieve the result or outcome that will benefit us, our organisation and the people we work for.

Exercise

Try this exercise, it can take as little as 10 minutes. (The exercise asks you to focus on finding your purpose at work, though of course you can adapt it to other contexts.)

As we work through the exercise to help you find and deliver on your purpose, keep in mind the following guidelines.

In order to set a tangible purpose you need to:

  • be clear on the outcome you want
  • ensure that it is suitable or positive
  • set up some criteria to assess success
  • be flexible in what you do in order to achieve that success

Now consider the overarching purpose of your role – this is how you contribute to your organisation’s success and strategic goals.

Your overarching purpose should include:

  1. A strong action verb
  2. A target group
  3. A how success is measured
  4. An implication or payoff

Use the table below to help

Key questions to identify your purpose Words to use
What’s your key contribution? Use a strong action verb ‘to inspire. . . ’

‘to offer direction to. . . ’

‘to build up. . . ’

‘to present. . . ’

‘to support. . . ’

‘to enable. . . ’

Who do you work alongside or who are your key internal customers? Describe your target group ‘the support team’

‘the SMT. . . ’

‘others in the recreation dept. . . ’

‘the board. . . ’

How is success measured in your job? ‘to raise funds’

‘to promote community safety. . . ’

‘to ensure members are fully informed’

‘to tackle discrimination. . . ’

What’s the result? – consider especially your external customers. What is the implication or payoff? ‘in order to improve the lives of. . . ’

‘so that all decisions are made in an informed way. . . ’

‘in a way that attracts significant media attention’

‘so that users feel part of the centre’

If you’re stuck, listed below are some simple examples:

Job Purpose
Finance officer ‘to ensure that the SMT has timely and accurate financial information to enable them to make informed decisions’
Access manager ‘to ensure all xyz’s services are available to all of our users and customers’ especially those with disabilities
Theatre director ‘to work with the actors, writers, and stage crew to produce drama that excites and enthuses the audience’
Fundraiser for HIV charity ‘to secure corporate funds and other support that will help us provide help and advice to people with HIV and Aids’

The benefits of finding your purpose

Finding your purpose can help you gain control and deliver results in the following ways:

Asking questions

  1. Purpose clarifies every action: by having a clear idea of your purpose you can go on to diagnose the core actions you can take to deliver that purpose. This means you can identify what goals you need to get you there, and the results you are aiming for. In the long-term this can help you identify your annual objectives, or milestone achievements. On a daily perspective this can help you prioritise what matters most every single day. It clarifies why seemingly mundane activities are really important as they help you on your way to your purpose. For example, updating database records might be endlessly dull. But knowing that every update means your target group has a better interaction with you is much more motivating. Ask yourself: how do the things on my to-do list help me deliver my purpose?
  2. Creates your stop-doing list: by clarifying what we should be doing to deliver our purpose, we can also conversely identify tasks we should not be doing. If there is something you are trying to do, but never get done you have a choice: put a pin in it and worry about it later. Or drop it and stop worrying about it. For example, you may have an activity you do because you always do it – a report that you write but it doesn’t inform decisions and it is just a tick box activity. You can’t see how it links to your purpose. Stop doing it and see if it makes any difference – or if anyone misses it. Ask yourself: what should I stop doing?
  3. Manages expectations: sharing your purpose with others helps to clarify things for them too. Use it to manage up: check if your boss agrees with the purpose you have written. If they do, then you have a contracted agreement about what you should say yes to and can say no to. Share it with the people you manage so they know what to expect of you, and where the lines are between your roles. This empowers them, as well as sets clear boundaries. Use it to share colleagues the value of your role, what you are there to make happen and how that interacts with their purpose. The more everyone has a clear sense of everyone else’s purpose the better. For example, if you are asked to perform a task, and you can’t see the link to your purpose, you have a framework to start an open conversation about priorities. Ask yourself: who can I share this with and how will it help them too?

Ultimately, your purpose reminds you of what really matters. In doing so, it can be motivating, energising, and inspiring. By examining your purpose, and holding it front of mind, you will move towards it.

Keeping your purpose rock solid

Stacked rocks balanced

Your purpose is your rock. But even rocks change over time. Use your purpose as a reflection aid and keep refreshing it to make sure it is always relevant and useful. As the pandemic continues to create change your purpose may keep shifting too. Ask yourself the following:

  • Would your purpose have been the same three months ago? Are the activities you need to do to move towards your purpose the same?
  • What might change in the coming 3 months and how might that affect your purpose? What activities may change?
  • How do these changes make you feel?

And then repeat. Review your purpose every few months, write it out. Check every action, check your stop-doing list, share it with others. And repeat. And repeat.

What’s Next?

If you’ve found this article helpful and you would like more information, please call +44 (0)20 7978 1516 to speak to one of our experienced Learning & Development Consultants or contact us online.

If you would like to learn more join us for the next Managing Multiple Priorities training. In just 8 hours you’ll learn how to focus your energy to deliver results, manage heavy workloads and constant interruptions, and improve your overall work-life balance.

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Charlotte Scott

About Charlotte Scott

Charlotte specialises in leadership development, team facilitation and strategy development. Charlotte worked for over 20 years in the not-for-profit sector. Before joining =mc seven years ago, she created and implemented a...

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