I’ve worked a variety of jobs over the past 14 years, over 30 last time I counted. Since the age of 16, I’ve had jobs in retail, food service, mail rooms, corporate offices, and now IT. A lot of these jobs sucked. Jobs that paid too low to work for managers that were too high up on their proverbial horses. Toxic environments, bad scheduling, lack of policies, or lack of enforcing of existing policies, feeling like you couldn’t go to HR about things (or when you did, nothing changed). I admit that I hastily left some of these jobs in my impulsive youth, but objectively, many of them were challenging positions that were draining on both physical and mental health.
Despite those negatives, I noticed many of my fellow employees stayed for years. You will run into them at any job, no matter the type. I’ve talked to the veterans of a company, who agreed that the systems were inefficient, or that management didn’t hold anyone accountable, or that the general culture was lacking passion or enthusiasm for the job. But they didn’t want to leave because “the money is too good”, or “I need the health insurance”, or “I like my schedule here”. They loved to complain, but they loved those benefits more. I got a lot of excuses like that at multiple companies, from multiple people. Some of that goes into the fear of change, but it turns out quite a few people are happy just making a paycheck and going home.
I need to pay my rent, too, but I won’t stick around a crappy job for them. To me, a job should be more than just the benefits you get out of them. I like to feel a satisfaction and sense of accomplishment from what I do. I enjoy helping others, being in a bright, positive environment, feeling like I have the resources from my managers to do so, while solving problems, maintaining my autonomy, and having the right people around me.
In short, I crave purpose.
Humans, as a whole, seek purpose because it’s key to finding fulfillment. When we lack it, we feel directionless and lost. When we have it, we are confident, motivated, and more relaxed. Everything falls into place.
Having purpose is such a universal human experience, and yet, in my 14 years of employment history, I have found that many, if not a large majority, of my coworkers did not seek purpose.
At least, not in their job. Your paycheck doesn’t have to be your purpose, though some absolutely see providing for their family and paying bills as the utmost valuable thing they could do–and I see you. I am not driven that way, but I admire you.
What if you’re one of those lost, wandering souls, still looking for your purpose? Should you pursue a degree in a field you’re passionate about? Or look for fancy job titles and high-level positions at your most desired companies? Well, yeah, you absolutely could, if you want. But, it’s not a universal answer to finding your purpose.
I met a cleaning lady from Venezuela at my college who was dirt poor and barely spoke English, but she was so passionate about doing a good job as a janitor and getting to interact with people on a daily basis. She was a light in everyone’s life. She didn’t have a college degree, or a high school diploma, for that matter, but she loved what she did. She said that she loved doing this for the young people and being able to make a difference at the school.
That’s the kind of passion I’m talking about. It’s not tied to a job, but for her, it certainly was, regardless of whether it was a glamorous or prestigious position.
So, is it just finding something you’re good at then and like doing? I think that’s important, too, but it’s still only part of the story.
The important thing about finding purpose is finding something that you feel passion for, that you feel you belong to. It’s a cause, field, hobby, or industry that you feel needs you. It’s better for having you in it, and you’re better for having it, too.
How do you find your purpose? Well, that could be an entire article by itself. In fact, Google is full of them! Amazon, likewise, has tons of books on the topic that you can get for relatively cheap. Maybe I’ll write a post full of resources on this topic, but for now I’ll say this: you’ll know your purpose when you see it.
The amazing thing about not knowing what to do with your life is that you can do whatever you want! It’s so freeing. You can write a book, write a movie, be a counselor; advocate for an oppressed, victimized, or minority group; work with kids, work with animals, work with the elderly, learn to make or build something, be crafty, be YOU.
It can be your job. It can be your side hustle. It can be on a volunteer basis. It can be your hobby that no one knows about but you.
The best way to find out is to do. What do you care about? What gives you light? What are your values? Think about options that tick those boxes and find a way to incorporate it into your life. It may require a bit of sacrifice and rearranging of priorities, but it’s well worth it. I had to cut down on video games to make room for more writing. I do not regret it. We make time for the things we care about most. This is worth the space on your agenda!
If you’re still not sure what answers those questions, then try some things! What are your friends into? Can you try it out with them at a class or workshop? Can they introduce it to you and teach you about it? Look into niche subreddits on Reddit and see what it’s like to get into gardening or woodworking or video editing. It might draw your attention in more, or you might realize it’s not for you at all.
You’ll know it when you feel it. It’ll be what gets you excited. Working at a place that meets all my criteria would be a great way to serve my purpose and feel fulfilled, but if it’s just tolerable while I put my heart into my passion on the side–that’s fine, too.
Have you found a purpose in life? How did you know?