I sat across from a man that I had just met - a surfer turned pastor turned entrepreneur. I listened with wide eyes as his own bright blue gaze lit up. “It’s about what you like spending your time doing. And above that, how you feel called to serve. Nothing else matters.” This was his career advice to me.
The thing was, after a few years out in the “real world”, I was no closer to finding my perfect job than I had been at graduation. It’s a long running joke that no one actually gets a job based on their college degree (because it’s true).
You don’t pick your classes based on what’s exciting, you decide on a major and follow the path they give to you. I was so bogged down by what I was “supposed” to be doing and how to make six figures, or what sounded good on a resume, that I forgot I was also in the midst of living a life that mattered and meant something. I hadn’t thought about my personal purpose or what I could be on a mission to do for this world, I was just trying to find the life syllabus that I somehow didn’t get with my diploma that would tell me how to be successful.
My newfound advisor told me to journal every day, throughout the day, for 30 days. He said to keep notes on what gave me energy and life, and what drained me. Everything from writing emails, to meetings, to research, and writing thank yous.
It was meant to give me clarity on what really lit my soul up. And it did.
It sounds simple and way too obvious, but the power of a ginormous list of things that give you joy is in the irrefutable evidence of the minor things, not the major things. Marie Kondo would burst into flames from all the joy sparks. Sparks are exactly what they are - little bursts of energy that point you in the direction of your personal purpose.
The truth of the matter is this: what you do can be chalked up quite simply. It’s how you spend your time. It’s not a title or a “job”. It’s your exchange of time on earth for money.
You can spend your time in pursuit of a something that lights you up, or something that just passes the time - it’s the same hours on the clock. If you want to truly be happy with work, you must be happy in the minute by minute passing of time.
The most effective way to find fulfillment in your career is to intimately know what your unique purpose is and how you can pursue that.
It’s not about being a Marketing Coordinator, and then a Marketing Director and just climbing the ladder. What is more impressive is someone who knows how each stepping stone is getting them closer and closer to their mission.
It’s a life-long practice of saying yes and no to things that really feel purposeful to you and that follow the mission you have for yourself. Know that achieving a goal can happen from many angles, not just one. If you know that you love to help people, there are a dozen “jobs” you could do that will get you there. What you need to know is what your own purpose is within that role.
For example, let’s say you want to help victims of violence overcome their trauma. That is your noble mission, aka your purpose. The good news is that you can help someone overcome their trauma as a writer sharing a personal story, or by practicing as a psychologist. You can help someone overcome trauma by volunteering with victims of violence, or by working as a non-profit professional advocating to end violence. The job title doesn’t matter as much as the mission you are on, then the tasks within that role should speak to your skills and enjoyment.
Solve for the why, and you’ll find the how.
If there is one more thing I know for sure, it’s all about the changing seasons of life. With each new chapter could be a new purpose or an expansion of your purpose - perhaps a pivot. You get to decide this. Many people have to make hard sacrifices as priorities shift, like having a baby or losing a parent. Many factors can determine when and how you pursue your mission, but you’ll never regret keeping it in mind as you seek out new opportunities to let your personal passion impact the world.