People are told to find their passion and pursue it, in order to be happy and successful in life.   If people are asked, at first many of them have trouble coming up with something.  Then, a large percentage of people will figure out that they are passionate about things outside their work, such as art, music, family, and skiiing.   If we do some simple math, we know that not everyone can have a career in these areas.   This is not to minimize the importance of enjoying life outside of work.  

I would like to offer another way to figure out where we should focus our efforts in order to enjoy our work.   Think about what the purpose of your work is.   Purpose is the knowledge and recognition that you are doing something that is making some kind of difference that we think is meaningful.     I also refer to this as Contribution.  It is helpful for leaders and managers to discuss this and reinforce the contribution or purpose that each person fulfills in the organization.   Peers should also acknowledge contribution to each other.  There are various levels of purpose that can be examined, from the whole company level down to team level.  Interestingly, people often become more passionate about their work when they figure out how they contribute to some larger purpose, as long as that purpose has meaning to them.  So passion can follow purpose. This doesn’t have to be about saving the world.  The other day I heard about a carpetlayer who had been doing his job for 30  years and said he had always been happy at his job because he felt like he was contributing something positive to how people felt in their environment.

Should you quit your job if you don’t feel like there is any purpose in it?   Well, maybe, maybe not.  Before you do that, perhaps ask others what they think your purpose or contribution  is and see what they say.   Sometimes, hearing others tell us that we are doing something worthwhile helps us to see that and feel motivated about it.   This may also help us to re- focus our efforts on where we contribute best.     Another option is to notice if another role in the organization is more aligned with how we think we can contribute.   If you are managing others, help your team members to understand and articulate their contributions. 

Daniel Pink  has a new book out called “Drive”, where he talks about Purpose as one of 3 key motivators in the workplace.

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