The purpose of life is about identifying that big life goal, which is not easy to do.
However, finding purpose in life is about finding meaning in the day to day journey, rather than in the once in a blue moon destination.
And it's learning to find purpose in life in the smaller day to day activities that is the focus of this blog.
Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski looked at the way people perceive their work.
She discovered that people could be divided into three groups in terms of their work orientation.
The first group mostly saw their work as a job the second as a career, while the third group primarily perceived their work as a calling.
-If I see my work as a job, my motivation is my paycheck at the end of the week or month.
Work is a chore and necessity, something that I have to do ..that I have no choice about doing.
What is my expectation? Nothing much.Do I look forward to the end of the week, TGIF, the weekend or the upcoming vacation (or sometimes retirement).
-If I perceive my work as a career, the motivation is money and advancement.
What drives me if I see my work as a career? I'm looking forward to that next promotion or to the next race accordingly.The expectation is prestige, power, accolades and accomplishments. The key is to make it ..whatever that means for each person.
-And then, there are people who perceive their work as a calling, their motivation = the work itself, whatever they do, it matters to them.
It is significant, purposeful.With this perception of work as a calling what we're mostly looking forward to is more work.
(Does that mean that a person who experiences a sense of calling wakes up every morning and says, "Well, I just can't wait to get to work?" Of course not.
All of us, without exception, sometimes have those weekends that we don't want to end or the weekdays when getting out of bed is a struggle. However, a person in this third category, experiences work as purposeful, much of the time)
Personally, I certainly see my work as a calling, but there are those days when I want to do nothing, which is characteristic of the job orientation. And I also think about how I would like my next book or project to be a success, which is more about a career orientation. The question is, what is more dominant?
My work mostly is purposeful, as a calling.
Do I see myself as privileged to be doing what I'm doing? Or do I see my work as a chore and something that I have to do? Or am I mostly motivated by the next promotion and believe that, that is what will finally make me happy?
So Amy took this framework and studied hospital employees.
And here is what she found.
Studying the janitors, the people who changed the bedsheets and cleaned the toilets, she identified those who experienced their work as a job as something that they did solely for the paycheck is a chore that they had to do. These janitors described their job as boring and meaningless.
But then there were also janitors who, like the first group, change the bedsheets and clean the toilets, who perceived the same work as a career. For them. It was about making it to the next level being promoted, becoming the head janitor or moving on to do something that paid better in which they perceive to be more prestigious.
Finally, there were janitors who day in and day out, change the bedsheets and clean the toilets, who saw their work as a calling.
They experienced the hours they spent at work as significant and meaningful. They saw the role as facilitating the work of the doctors and nurses responsible for the health of the patients.
Not surprisingly, those who saw this as their calling were happier than their counterparts and they were better at their work as well.
Interestingly, in the same hospitals, there were doctors who saw their work as a job as a career or as a calling.
Some doctors just couldn't wait for the end of the shift or a weekend or retirement. It was a job a chore for them.
Then there were doctors who were all about advancement, becoming the chief doctor or head of the department or starting a private practice because they could make a lot more money.
And then there were doctors who saw their work as a calling for whom doing what they were doing was meaningful.
Not surprisingly, in terms of percentages, there were more doctors in this third category of calling than there were janitors.
However, there were janitors and doctors in each of the three categories, as there were nurses and administrators who belong to all three groups.
Researchers have found similar patterns among engineers, business people, restaurant employees and hairdressers.
The study concluded that even in the most restricted and routine jobs, employees can exert some influence on what is the essence of their work in most situations, whether we experienced what we do as a calling (a spiritual endeavour) or is the job mundane ~ it is largely up to us.
There is a story about a person who walks past a construction site in Italy where he encounters a group of builders and asks one of them,”What are you doing?”
The builder says I'm laying bricks.
Walking a few more metres the person encounters a second builder. What are you doing? he asks again.”I'm building a wall”,says the second builder.
Walking a few more metres the person sees a third builder, doing the exact same thing as the first two.”What are you doing?”he asks ~ to which the builder responds “I'm constructing a temple to the glory of God.”
The first two reported on the material aspect of their work. The third, understood its spiritual meaning and truth is that most of the things we do have a spiritual component to them.
What ever we do - we have some freedom about how we perceive our situation.
Whether we are janitors or doctors or builders, or bank officers.
A teacher can see his work as a chore - just waiting to get through the day. Is his/her career motivated primarily by his/her desire to be head of school, or is it a calling appreciating the significance of cultivating the minds and hearts of the young students?
We can even apply the work orientation framework to parenting young kids.
We can perceive the children’s bedtime routine, say between 6pm and 8pm in different ways.
The job equivalent would be the following. “Oh no,I have to make dinner again. Make sure they bathe and brush read them the same bedtime story I read yesterday... then make sure they're asleep. What a chore night after night.”
The career equivalent would be the following. “It may not be fun to make them dinner again, but I'm doing it because it's a long term investment in their health. And bathing and brushing are important for their hygiene. And I'm going to read them the same bedtime story because there is research showing that kids who are read to end up doing better academically. It's hard work, but it's a good investment in their success.”
Alternatively, I can look at bedtime routine, doing the exact same things as a calling, “6pm comes in & I think to myself, I'm so fortunate to be able to spend two precious hours with the most important people in my life. I get to nourish them, help them clean up and then I get to see the excitement in their eyes in their huge smiles as they hear the same stories again.. seeing them excited as if they're hearing it for the first time. What a privilege.”
Needless to say, my experience if I see my time with them as a calling is going to be a lot more fun as well as better for them.
Now granted, not every night can be a calling night and all parents have nights where they just can't wait for the day to be over. That's fine and natural.
Of course, the key is whether at home or at work, to spend more time.. a little bit more time experiencing whatever it is that you do as a calling.
For when you do that, you take the path of purpose to a more spiritual life..to a happier life.
Do you experience your professional and personal life as a job as a career? Or is it a calling?
My job is to help people find their True North .. and that is one of the most significant contributors to their lifelong well being.