It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important in life, and that includes your sense of purpose in your work. Maybe work has always been a means to an end for you or perhaps what started as a great and exciting career has started to lose its shine.
Here’s the thing…
Losing your sense of purpose in your work – or realising you never had a sense of purpose in the first place – is going to have consequences.
And that’s because having sense of purpose in your work is not a luxury – it’s essential. That sense of fulfilment, motivation and satisfaction makes your career a success. It’s your engagement with your work that leads to promotions, great learning opportunities and the sense that you and your work are worthwhile.
Without a sense of meaningful work, you’ll end up feeling apathetic, demotivated and frustrated. You’ll never fulfil your potential or do work you enjoy. When your job feels meaningless, you’re sentencing yourself to a lifetime of work misery.
So if you’ve been feeling stuck and dissatisfied with your work, perhaps you lack a sense of purpose.
Read the list below and see whether you recognise any emotions and behaviours that indicate you’re suffering from a lack of purpose in your work.
#1. You feel stuck
Feeling stuck is a sure sign your work doesn’t feel purposeful. You know you have the talent and ability to be and do much more, but you’re just not fulfilling your potential. Frankly, that’s painful. But more than that, it can result in you feeling trapped because it seems there’s no way out of your situation.
You want to feel free and be able to express yourself in a meaningful way. That usually means doing work that impacts others. If you don’t do that, you’re likely lose your connection to yourself as a person. It’s this lack of connection with your inner self that makes it difficult to see a way out of your situation.
It can seem as if there’s a huge distance between where you are and where you want to be – and that’s overwhelming. In the end, you don’t even know what to do to change things, and that’s when you’re likely to hear the metaphorical cell door slamming behind you.
When you’re stuck, you stop engaging with others. You hide away and avoid meeting new people or making new friends. Everything gets very samey, static and dull. You’re cut off from the source of inspiration and emotional release that can only come from having relationships with others.
So, if you feel stuck, if life and work feel dull to you and you’ve stopped meeting new people, it could be a sign you need more purpose in your work. When you find work that lights you up, you’ll open up as a person, enjoy your work far more and begin to look to the future with more enthusiasm and energy.
#2. You feel as if something’s missing from your life
When you start asking questions about the purpose of your existence, it’s a sure sign that you don’t feel you’re making a difference and that you’re drifting through life rather than living it to the full as a positive member of society.
As your work becomes less and less fulfilling, the more you’ll become focused on yourself. You’ll become isolated because you’re no longer connecting with others. You no longer feel part of a community and you start to believe your contribution is irrelevant and doesn’t matter.
Feeling disconnected from those around you is a sign that you’ve lost touch with what you’re here to do. You become self-immersed and only focused on your own needs and not those of others.
Being disconnected from those around you can make life feel empty and pointless. You may find yourself wondering whether this is it or what the point of life is at all. But that’s also a sign that you’ve descended into a low mood and that you need to make changes fast. Otherwise you could be heading for a period of depression.
#3. You feel bored with life
Another sign your work lacks purpose is that you want to get through your day as fast as possible. Work is boring drudgery for you, so the only part of your day or week that matters is your time outside the office. In fact, you pretty much live for your evenings, weekends and holidays. But even outside work, everything bores you. It’s as if that lack of engagement at work is seeping into your personal life too.
Safety and keeping everything under control becomes your main concern. Stretching beyond your comfort zone is scary, so you avoid anything new or challenging. Living a low-risk might be safe, but it’s also dull, dull, dull.
What’s more, your safe existence leaves you feeling powerless rather than secure. You end up passively drifting along, waiting for things to happen. It’s as if you’re sitting in a boat without oars while the river current carries you along. You’re not in control of where you go, when you go there or how fast you travel. You’re just a passenger – a victim of the events and not a creator of the life you want to live.
This is a painful way to live. Typically, your response is to numb your feelings with alcohol, drugs, spending, soap operas, computer games… in fact anything that allows you to zone out and forget about the way your life is going.
#4. Your self-esteem is low
When you’re unfulfilled, you’re driven to look outside yourself for validation of your worth as a person. This leads to "comparisonitis" and jealousy because you’re constantly assessing how you measure up against others. When those around you seem to be doing better than you, you feel jealous and put down by their comparative success. When you see someone else doing worse than you, it reassures you that you’re not bottom of the heap and that makes you feel better.
But this constant checking and comparing is a sure sign your self-esteem is low, which probably explains why you’re all talk and no action. You look for solutions outside of yourself – you distract yourself with shiny new objects that simply delay you stepping out. But you never implement anything you learn, because that requires you to step out of your comfort zone -- and that’s too scary to contemplate.
The less you do in your life and the more you negatively compare yourself to others, the further your self-esteem sinks. It’s a downward spiral of negativity that you have no idea how to stop. Yet one simple solution – finding a deeper sense of purpose in your work – would resolve almost all your issues.
#5. You’re moody, angry and anxious
Of course, when you’re in pain, feel bored by life and have low self-esteem, you’re not going to be a nice person.
In fact, you’re probably moody, angry and anxious, making you very difficult to be around. All that frustration you feel with your work and life translates into criticism and cynicism. It comes out as barely-concealed rage, bitchiness and negativity.
Nothing is ever good enough – especially you – and you worry because you think others have the same opinion. Being a passenger in life results in a lot of worry. After all, if you’re not in control, who is, and what are they going to do to you next?
There’s no comfort in the company of others, either. When you go to work or work-related events, you feel like an outsider. You feel insecure because it’s hard to believe anyone really likes you – after all, you don’t like you very much so why would anyone else like you? And if nobody likes you, it’s easy to believe you’re dispensable and that you’ll be the first to go if there are redundancies at work.
All of which leads to more worry, defensiveness and insecurity.
How to find purposeful work
It’s not easy to take on board how much a lack of purpose can impact you and your life. As you can see, it’s not just your career that’s going to suffer. You’re going to suffer as person too.
But don’t put yourself down or lose hope. Look at this realisation as good news because now you can start to change things.
Make a resolution to get some help from a professional career coach and start the process of deciding what meaningful work looks like to you. From there, you can make a career plan, take control of your life and turn your negative spiral into a positive one.
And you don’t have to wait until you get your ideal job. You can begin to feel the difference it makes to you every day. The difference now is that you’ll no longer drifting along because you’ll have a goal. That sense of purpose will emanate from your work and change your life for the better.
Don’t wait. Nobody is going to save you. It’s up to you to take control and make your life better. Take responsibility for yourself by starting to create the life you want: one with purpose and energy. Do reach out to us for support if you want to work on your creating more purpose to your work as we have an online programme to help you achieve it.
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