IWill 2023-01-18 10:27 - 8 minute read

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Finding Your Purpose Again With Your Work Life

Dr. Preeti Rao Counselling psychologist, IWill

Amidst a world changed by a deadly virus, a global economic crisis, and civil and political unrest that’s ripping at the fabric of society, it’s hard to feel inspired about much of anything these days — let alone your job.

But while it’s understandable now to feel that your work has lost its purpose, rekindling it ought to be a top priority. What can you do to shift your perspective? Reflect on what you care about and what motivates you.

Think about why you wanted to work at your organization in the first place. Remind yourself how the work you do affects others.


You don’t need to be curing diseases or saving endangered species for your work to have meaning.

Reflect on the projects that invigorate you, and consider the interesting problems your organization is tackling. Look, too, for ways that your purpose can be personal. You might, for instance, coach a younger employee or help a member of your team who’s struggling. Putting yourself forward even in small ways can be replenishing.


First things first: You need to address the root reasons for your feelings of meaningless. It’s likely one of the culprits is stress. In a typical day, you endure hundreds of minor aggravations, such as a colleague hastily disagreeing with you in a meeting, or a peer falling behind on a deadline — that affect your productivity and feelings about your job. You are usually able to absorb these little cuts, but they are exponentially amplified [and more painful] in a pandemic, when your usual outlets for stress — seeing friends or doing a tough gym workout — are absent. It explains why we feel so stressed and that our work has no meaning.

There is, however, a simple antidote. Just as micro-stresses eat away at you, micro-moments of pleasure can help you find your way back. Read about real-life heroes; take a nature walk; attend a religious service, page through an art book; or scroll through photographs of faraway places, taking a break from the news. The constant negativity affects your brain and wellbeing by exhausting your strength and stealing your joy.


Recognize, too, that Covid-19, ensuing economic problems, and political instability have taken an enormous toll, and it’s hard to find meaning in your work when you’re feeling fried. Give yourself a break. And yet, while this past year has been hard, you need to remember that you’re not the only one suffering. People are going through hard things all over the world. Have compassion.

To shift your perspective, seeking reminders that you’re not alone and that you’re connected to bigger things. A little self-pity every now and then is natural, but don’t allow yourself to devolve into a woe-is-me mind set. How you view your life shapes your life. It may sound corny, but practicing gratitude provides entrée to positive emotions that can neutralize the challenges you inevitably experience.


Finding meaning in your work [requires thinking] about how you’re living your life — how you’re spending your time and how you’re using your abilities,” she says.

Ask yourself: What drives me? What are my values?

What am I good at doing? And what contributions do I wish to make? Actively reminding yourself why and how the work you do affects others.

Remember, you don’t need to be curing diseases or saving endangered species for your work to be meaningful.

Think about what excited you about working at your organization in the first place.

Think about projects and plans that invigorate you; consider what you’re excited to learn in your job; reflect on the interesting problems your organization is tackling.

If you’re coming up short, what helps is talking to your colleagues and members of your team. Ask them: “How is what we do helping people and making the world better?

Why does our work matter right now?” Piggybacking on their energy and insights could help you regain inspiration.


In a perfect world, you want to align your purpose with the mission of your organization, and you want to feel like the work you’re doing is for the greater good. But if that’s gone — even just temporarily — look for small ways that your purpose can be personal.

Being helpful is one of the most gratifying. You might, for instance, provide coaching or mentorship to a younger employee, volunteer to pick up slack for a member of your team who’s struggling, or offer support to a colleague in a different division.

Putting yourself forward, even in small ways can be replenishing. Helping others provides meaning and satisfaction. This feeling of interconnectedness is exactly what people need right now.


Job shaping is another strategy that can help spark your dormant enthusiasm for work. Look for ways to make new contributions [in your job] so that your presence at your organization feels more meaningful. Think about how your strengths, skills, and passions could help your organization deal with the current moment’s crisis-related challenges.

You could team up with like-minded colleagues to help your firm devise fairer hiring policies and promotion practices. Your goal is to make changes to your role that match your experience and motivations.


Make a concerted effort to connect with colleagues that you enjoy. Don’t let your job become a get-it-done transaction. Reflect on why you’re grateful for certain colleagues and then demonstrating your appreciation.

Research shows that expressing gratitude grounds you and provides a counterbalance to the negativity that crisis and uncertainty generate. Put simply, telling others what they mean to you is a meaningful experience in its own right. Those moments of connection — taking a minute and saying, ‘I appreciate you and I really enjoy working with you’ — are powerful.


Finally, whatever you do, don’t make a rash decision based on your state of mind today.

We are all under a lot of stress, and no one makes good decisions under those conditions.

If you’re contemplating quitting, hold off. It’s not exactly a stellar job market. It’s important to be positive in the choices you make.

Once these crises pass, you may still desire a career change; and you can take steps to deal with it.

Until then, “ride it out and see if you can” improve your current circumstances.

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