• Finding purpose helps you feel happier and more motivated
  • Even in the most inane jobs, you can find a sense of purpose
  • Shift your mindset and attitude and you’ll be more fulfilled at work
Many of us tackle this question at some point in our working life.

Maybe it hit you when you read about Tom’s Shoes with their “one for one” buy a pair of shoes and one is given away to someone in need.

Or, maybe it was St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital’s latest breakthrough in ending childhood cancer.

Or maybe, it’s when your friend is telling you about a patient they recently helped overcome an injury.

Maybe it comes out of nowhere and just pops into your head.

It’s a question that, once asked, can’t be ignored.

What difference does my job make?

Unless your job is literally to save the world in one way or another, you’ll find yourself wondering what’s the point of it all.

Is selling software to companies really that important? Does running accounts for some huge corporation have any positive impact in the world?

The truth is, a lot of us have jobs which don’t fulfill any purpose other than to make more money for people who already have a load of money.

And once we realize that, it can become difficult to feel a sense of purpose.

When we don’t feel a sense of purpose in our work, it makes every day a slog. We lack motivation, we feel more disconnected from our work and - ultimately - it affects our long term wellbeing and happiness.

But we can’t all be life-saving doctors, human rights activists and benevolent social workers.

So are the rest of us doomed to trudge to work everyday feeling no sense of fulfillment, plagued by the unhappy fact that we’re “doing nothing” with our lives?

Of course not!

Even if your job is literally watching paint dry, there are things you can do to find purpose at work. It’s not as hard as you think.

The Woes of An Unfulfilling Job

Some of us are just working to pay the bills - and what’s wrong with that?

There’s nothing wrong with chasing a paycheck but feeling unfulfilled at work can result in a bunch of negative side effects.

1) Lack of Motivation

If you don’t feel a sense of fulfillment from the work that you do, you won’t feel motivated to do your best.

You’ll find yourself falling into a pattern of doing the bare minimum to get by, and that leads to even less fulfillment. It’s a vicious downward spiral which can lead to your work becoming so poor that it could get you in trouble - or worse, get your ass fired.

And this attitude spreads beyond the office into your personal life too.

Soon, all the fun things that used to make you happy no longer have the same attraction. Your interest in your fav hobbies start to wane. You withdraw from your normal social events. You just don’t feel like doing anything.

2) Stress From Internal Conflict

We usually associate stress at work with having too much to do or too much responsibility.

But feeling insignificant or that your work has no meaning can also lead to stress.

It’s the kind of stress that comes from thinking “what’s the fucking point?” while also knowing that you have to get the work done. This clash in what you believe and the actions you have to take leads to something called cognitive dissonance, which is like an internal battle going on in your head.

When stress continues unchecked, it can lead to all kinds of physical health problems - from digestive issues to heart problems.

3) Weight Gain (Or Loss) 

Stress can also lead to fluctuations in our weight.

Many of us respond to stress by either eating too much or eating too little.

When work life is unfulfilling, food often becomes the go-to antidote to boost our mood.

After a shitty day at work, there’s nothing better than stuffing yourself with your go-to unhealthy foods. (Mine is cake, what’s yours?) Each pleasurable high-calorie, high-fat bite helps to mentally wipe away life’s struggles.

But, the good feelings are only temporary. So, we keep eating to keep the feeling going on and on. Then, the fat pants come out.

At the other end of the spectrum, some of us completely lose our appetite when stressed. It’s almost like eating has turned into a chore like cleaning the bathroom. Your fav foods are no longer fact, no food is appealing. Everything is just blah.

4) Poor Mental Health

As well as causing stress, working in an unfulfilling role can lead to more serious forms of poor mental health.

This study from The Australian National University found that being in a job you dislike actually has a more negative impact on your mental health than being unemployed.

Think about it.

Even when you’re unemployed, you have a purpose - to find a new, awesome job. But when you spend day in day out at a job that gives you no sense of meaning, you don’t get that same drive.

It can be easy to feel that this is how your life will be forever. And that kind of ongoing despondency can lead to more serious mental health challenges.

5) Low Self Esteem

Feeling that your job is unimportant can lead to feelings of low self-worth, affecting your self-esteem.

When your work isn’t making any impact and not being valued, it makes your existence in the company kind of pointless.

It’s like that weekly or monthly report that you put a lot of effort into that nobody reads or uses. What a waste of time, right?

Viewing yourself in these terms within a work context will also overflow into your life outside of work, affecting your confidence levels and even your personal relationships.

These are the very real effects of spending day after day in a job that doesn’t fulfill you - and these challenges don’t have any quick fixes.

But you can prevent these issues from manifesting by getting to the root and creating a more purpose-driven work life for yourself.

The Power Of Purpose

Having a sense of purpose - in life and in your work - is a huge boost for your wellbeing.

When you have a reason to get up and get to work and do the things you do, it gives you direction, a calling, a path to follow, that get-up-and-go feeling, and other such wonderful cliche phrases 😉

Aside from counteracting the challenges above, it truly does help you get your job done. And at a higher level, it makes you feel valued and in turn, wanted. This gets to the core of all human emotional needs - being included and wanted by others.

And along the way, this sense of purpose has all sorts of other benefits.

1) It Motivates You

If lack of purpose equals lack of motivation, then it makes sense that the opposite is true of having a sense of purpose.

But it’s not just a general sense of motivation - it helps you to approach every task with a can-do attitude.

Watch this 3-minute video below for a real-life example of this.

Laying bricks can be a pretty menial task. But if you connect with the purpose of building a place of worship that will support tons of people in finding peace and joy, then even mixing cement will be a task that you do with gusto.

VIDEO: How To Find Your Purpose At Work
YOUTUBE: Dhar Mann
LENGTH: 2:41
Summary points:
  • Feeling a sense of purpose at work is more about the mindset than the job
  • You can choose to be a job worker, career worker or purpose worker
  • The mindset of a purpose worker leads to more fulfillment

2) You Find Joy In The Little Wins

Not only will a sense of purpose help you find the drive to complete tasks, but it will also help you find joy in every win - no matter how big or small.

Finishing that Powerpoint presentation on time or confirming that all the Excel formulas are working correctly might not seem like a huge accomplishment.

But if you’re able to keep the larger purpose in mind and see how each task helps you to achieve that, then every win, no matter how small, feels like it’s worth celebrating.

Each little task is one step closer to crossing the finish line on that project.

3) You Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Equally, when things don’t go your way, it’s easier to bounce back and refocus when you have your larger purpose in mind.

Work will always throw challenges our way, and office politics are impossible to ignore.

But when you’re focused on the purpose behind your work, you won’t get bogged down in unnecessary drama or ruminating on things that went wrong.

In the larger scheme of things, that stuff becomes insignificant.

4) You Learn To Love Challenges

When the actual work becomes difficult, unpleasant or challenging, it’s human to want to throw in the towel.

If we feel that we’re being overworked and underpaid, or given too much responsibility, it can stress us out and even lead us to want to look for greener pastures.

But when you feel a sense of purpose in your work, difficulties become exciting challenges to solve. They test your skills in a good way. And when overcoming the challenges becomes almost effortless, you’re in the zone and become unstoppable.

Because you’re more motivated to succeed and you see the bigger picture, you’ll approach challenges with a positive attitude and find it easier to come up with creative solutions. You stick with it even when the going gets tough.

5) You’ll Feel Like A Boss

Finding purpose and fulfillment at work will help you to feel like the shit.

As you complete tasks and reach goals, the little reward system in your brain will kick into gear, releasing happy hormones like dopamine.

It’s like bowling a strike, hitting blackjack, finding Pokemon, crushing all the candy etc.

This will help you feel even more motivated to achieve more, and will give you a sense of pride in your work.

You might not actually be saving the world, but you’ll sure feel like it 😉

Having a sense of purpose doesn’t have to start with having a world-changing job.

Whoever you are and whatever you do, you can take steps now to start feeling fulfilled instead of fed up at the end of each working day.

Find More Fulfillment At Work

We all deserve to feel happy and proud of the work that we do.

If movies are anything to go by, even career criminals find a sense of fulfillment in their work, so why shouldn’t Janet from accounting and Paul the janitor feel the same?

As with many things, the first step is to be intentional about wanting to feel more fulfilled.

For many, the obvious next step if feeling unfulfilled at work is a change in job or company. But chances are, you’ll find yourself in the same position after a while at the new place.

So instead of searching for meaning in work, it’s time to create meaning in your work.

1) Define Your Purpose

Purpose is completely personal. It’s different for different people. So if you want to find meaning and purpose in your work, you first have to figure out what that even means to you.

Yes, some people want to save the planet or change the world but it doesn’t have to be that lofty.

Maybe purpose for you is about providing for your family. Perhaps it’s setting a good example for your kids.

It could also be about supporting students or people early in their careers.

Maybe purpose for you is all about personal growth and becoming the best person you can be.

Take some time to reflect and write down what is important to you and what gives you a sense of purpose - be honest with yourself and approach this without judgment. 

2) Change Your Approach

Once you’ve figured out what purpose means for you, see if you can change your approach at work in order to create that purpose.

For example, if you’re an accountant and you find purpose in personal growth, you may be finding your job unfulfilling because you could do it in your sleep.

But maybe you can present a new approach to accounting. It could involve creating new systems, utilizing new technology or restructuring the team.

Whatever it is, present your idea to your boss and see if they’ll let you run with it.

Leading change is a brilliant way to find purpose at work - and win favors with the big bosses. It’ll also be a big positive in your annual review too.

Most organizations have things they can improve, so if you look at your job, your team and your department with fresh eyes, you’ll almost definitely come up with an awesome master plan for making improvements.

This could also translate into changing your working arrangement.

If purpose for you is more about spending time with your family, could you change your working hours so that you have more time at home?

Perhaps you could come up with an arrangement where you work from home one or two days out of the week or even cut down your working days.

Think outside the box and see what can be changed!

3) Change Your Attitude

Sometimes, all we need is a mindset shift.

The human mind is predisposed to focus on the negative. It’s supposed to keep us safe and aware of danger but sometimes it just sends us into a spiral of negativity that it can be difficult to get out of.

To start looking at your work with new eyes, begin by writing down all the things you enjoy about what you do.

This doesn’t just involve your job. It could be about the people you work with, the environment you work in or the money you get paid.

Next, spend some time thinking about who your work benefits. No matter what kind of work you do, there is a positive impact to someone, somewhere. You just need to take some time to notice it.

From this exercise, you can write out a purpose statement, or even multiple statements. Start them with “My work matters because…”

It could be anything from...

“My work matters because it allows me to put my kids through college.”

“My work matters because it contributes to making finance available for struggling families.”

“My work matters because it helps the other company build more piping for home repairs.”

Anytime you need a reminder of why your work is awesome, come back to these statements.

4) Get Inspired

No matter what job you do, there is someone out there who has done the same job and creates content to help you do your job better.

Whether you work in sales, cleaning or coding, you’ll find experts who have written books, filmed YouTube videos and recorded podcasts with the sole purpose of inspiring and educating you.

Find these people and consume their content to get inspired! It’ll help you see your work in a new light and you may learn something new.

In today’s personal development obsessed age, there are lots of general motivation and inspiration books, videos and podcasts you can get your hands on.

You could even turn your morning commute into a motivation session by listening to a motivational podcast or TED talk every morning on your way to work.

5) Be The Inspiration

If you fancy yourself as the expert instead, why not become the inspiration for others?

You can find purpose in sharing the knowledge that you’ve developed in your work with others.

This doesn’t have to be on a world stage - you can start within your own team and company.

Run training sessions, mentor juniors and host talks at work to share your knowledge.

Once you’re ready, you can start working on becoming an industry expert. Write blog posts, attend and speak at conferences and build your personal brand as the go-to person for whatever it is you do.

What could be more fulfilling than helping others achieve success?

6) Go The Extra Mile

Our work lives are more than just our job, which means there are more opportunities to find fulfillment.

Most workplaces arrange company socials, charity days and mentoring or buddy sessions.

See how you can get involved with one of these areas. Or if it doesn’t exist yet in your organization - be the one to set it up!

Though your job will stay the same, knowing you have a couple of hours a week dedicated to either making work more fun for your colleagues, finding a way to give back on a larger level than you could on your own, or helping to mold the next generation of leaders, will give your work life more meaning.

Fulfillment Comes From Within

We live in a world where (for most of us anyway) working is a fact of life. And most jobs are not important in a very obvious way.

So our sense of purpose has to come from within us. Just like our happiness and wellbeing, we can’t expect it to come from outside ourselves.

We’re all going to have some kind of existential crisis at least once in our lives (remember your quarter-life crisis?) and questioning the worth of our work will undoubtedly be part of that.

But we must realize that every job plays its part. And every job is part of something bigger.

Sure, the company you work for doesn’t have a core mission of uplifting global poverty. And, your job may not be directly about curing illnesses for millions. But that doesn’t mean that it’s insignificant.

Once we stop comparing our work with great humanitarians and selfless philanthropists, it’s easier to understand how we can contribute and be a part of something meaningful.

By figuring out what gives us a sense of purpose, even at the smallest levels, we can create more meaning in our working lives.

And a little bit of purpose goes a long way to helping us feel happier and healthier at work and at home. We might even inspire a few other people along the way.

And guess what? You didn’t even need to save the entire world to get that.

Feel Better,

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