A certain young man spent five years in university, graduating with a professional degree. He then started down his career path, in search of success and fulfilment, with hopes of changing the world for the better.
But it wasn’t long before a harsh reality set in: What started out as a passion became a task and then a chore.
Disillusioned because his chosen profession seemed so mundane, he felt he had wasted his time, his education and his life. He became angry. He told anyone who would listen, including his children, to avoid his profession and the path he had chosen.
One day everything changed.
A customer came in and for some inexplicable reason, our man – now 20 years older and filled with bitterness for his profession – took 15 minutes to explain the process of what the customer was buying and how it would affect that customer. The customer was amazed and grateful.
Our man did the same thing with the next client, who was using a different product. This customer was enormously grateful for his insight and explanations. They said they had been using the product for eight years and nobody had ever taken the time to tell them how it worked.
A light went on. Our man realized how important his job was and that he had wasted 20 years under-serving his clients.
“Suddenly I had passion for what I had chosen as a profession because I finally realized my value to my clients,” he wrote to me. “It transformed me from the anger of wasting five years of university for a poor choice of a life profession to a passionate professional wanting to help every one of my customers.”
Finding purpose and meaning in life challenges us all. When we’re young, we yearn to find our place in life and we try to choose paths we think will be the most rewarding.
Some people seek fame and fortune, others want to create something with their hands. Some want to work in a quiet atmosphere and others gravitate towards helping others.
In my years as a business coach, I’ve regularly come across leaders who feel unfulfilled. Some make huge amounts of money and others have no interest in remuneration.
I sent out an email asking people if they could help me with this article by answering some questions:
- What’s the purpose of your life?
- What is it about what your job or business that gives you purpose or meaning?
- In the last few months, have you questioned what your real purpose is?
- What should someone struggling with purpose do?
The response was overwhelming. Over the next few days, I received dozens of responses. Some people were definitely unsettled by the questions. Others were challenged and put considerable effort into their responses, including the professional above.
Surprisingly, quite a few respondents who had clarity about their purpose had similar answers.
An underlying theme ran through the responses of those people who had clarity of purpose. It didn’t matter whether they were young or old; doctors, pharmacists, realtors or financial planners; executive directors of non-profits, business owners of retail establishments or construction companies; mothers or fathers; or employees of organizations.
Repeatedly, those who had clarity about their purpose in life said some version of: “To help others and make a difference in their lives.”
Those people who found ways to make a difference in the lives of others had a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment.
Unfortunately, not all of us clearly understand how we make a difference for others or how our lives have meaning.
But when we take the time to go through the process and see how the little things we do can make a difference for others, it can transform our lives and those of the people around us.
Are you having trouble finding your purpose?
Respondents to my survey told me to tell you not to over-think it. Struggling through this is normal and as more than one person wisely said, “Find your passion and your purpose will follow!”
Troy Media columnist David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Stuck? Email firstname.lastname@example.org