We millennials are often considered to be spoilt generation which grew up in the most peaceful and economically flourishing moments of our history. And yet we are often so unhappy with our jobs, that changing employers every 2-3 years became the new normal. It is either that we don’t feel valued enough, the people at the company don’t inspire us, the company’s strategy is not purposeful enough or we simply feel an urge to explore new places and things.
There could be many more reasons, but let’s talk about the one which created the most buzz recently – searching for purpose. This buzz has become so strong that more and more companies are rallying to adjust their vision and mission statements to appeal to the millennial generation. If not, many believe that attracting the most talented millennials is going to be hard.
It is interesting that hunger for purpose is so much associated with millennials, although I believe it’s not unique to this generation only. If we look at the famous Maslow needs pyramid, searching for purpose can be related to the top layer – self actualization. The theory says that every human is moving up each layer step-by-step. So, since the theory was published in 1943, a time before ‘millennials’ came into existence, I believe it’s safe to conclude that all human beings want to pursue their purpose once they are at the top of the pyramid.
Why so much buzz around the purpose than these days? I believe that millennials popularized this concept, because reaching the top layer for many of us was easier and faster compared to previous generations. This is not to say that millennials have an easy life, but rather to emphasize the different economic conditions we grew up in.
So, back to the million dollar question – how to find your purpose?
It is always a good idea to start with self-reflection
Start slow to finish fast. And don’t jump to conclusions immediately. Take your time to understand yourself better. What drives you or gives you the most energy? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Where do your beliefs and values derive from? Who are you?
It’s plenty of questions, which often can be hard to answer. You might need to dig deep into your childhood, family relations and environment in which you grew up. Try to remember what you liked doing when you were younger and didn’t yet have too many “adult” responsibilities. I am sure this will trigger new thoughts and will help you to answer your questions.
This self-analysis is rarely a simple task, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your friends, peers or family members and ask them how they see you in different environments. But again, don’t jump to conclusions too fast. You are only asking for input, so the conclusion is your responsibility. Don’t get too influenced by the opinions of others, you know yourself best after all.
Sometimes the conclusions don’t come out and you might feel lost. Then you could also consider taking a personality test, if not done already. From my own experience I can tell that the results were always accurate and triggered me with new thoughts about myself. So, take another look at your personality test results or take a new one. Some I recommend are the free Myer-Briggs, Colour Insights Discovery or PI Behavioral test.
It might be good to take several tests and compare results among them. Each will provide a new angle. If you struggle to read your test results, you might consider asking for help from a professional coach. It might make the whole self-reflection process a lot smoother and faster. If you decide to do so, there are two coaches whom I can wholeheartedly recommend – Karolina Filosek or Mark Buchanan.
Once it feels like the time is right, synthesize your thoughts from the self-reflection and take the necessary steps towards your purpose. Most likely it won’t be a straightforward journey and you will need to take a few detours. But that’s okay! The most important thing is to dare to take that step.
“Giving back” is nicer than taking
Think of your legacy. What do you want to leave behind? And how do you want to be remembered by your family members, friends or colleagues?
I believe that when people reach the top of the Maslow needs pyramid, they are searching for something more than just being a good family member or a successful professional. Getting a higher salary, better position at work or buying more stuff does not fulfil you anymore. Most likely you are searching for some additional purposeful activities where you can feel more useful.
As Anne Frank wrote in her diary “No one has ever become poor by giving.” Because helping or empowering others without the expectation of getting anything back is indeed one of the most rewarding feelings you can get in your life. And it’s not true that you don’t get back anything. You do! A smile, a hug or a sincere thankyou is priceless.
This is how many people find their purpose, by focusing on the needs of others instead of their own. And it’s so easy to start, as oftentimes you don’t need to make any major changes in your life. You can start by helping people in your surroundings, whether it’s sending a student’s resume to your boss or helping a single mum to take care of her baby during her night-out or joining a non-profit organization…the list goes on.
Once you get involved into these “giving back” activities, you might get addicted to it. The feeling of helping others is amazing and your purpose crystallizes too. So, as Nike would say “Just do it”.
Purpose is not just about one thing
This purpose question somehow naturally connotes with something really deep and almost spiritual. I don’t know about you, but when people ask me this question, I always feel a bit pressured on how I should answer it, especially in the work environment. I guess it is the fear of being judged, as if I couldn’t articulate that my job was purposeful enough.
The truth is, is that your work doesn’t necessarily need to be your purpose, even though you spend most of your time there. It’s ideal if you feel your true calling, but if not, being a good servant and interested in continuous learning should be purposeful enough.
So, get this idea that work should be your biggest purpose out of your head! Your life consists of so many things and work is just a small part of it. The same goes for purpose. Purpose is about multiple things which give you energy and make you feel fulfilled. Your work might be a part of your purpose or enable to do other purposeful activities. Go ahead and figure out multiple things which give you a sense of purpose.
. . .
Sometimes we are waiting or searching for an enlightenment moment where purpose hits us and voila! We nailed it. Unfortunately that rarely happens. Usually you need to walk around for a bit and explore. Those might be uncomfortable, but they truly are exciting journeys. I wish you not to be afraid of your “piligrim” trips, they will lead you closer and closer to your purpose.