Sometimes I fool myself into thinking one day I will land a job that makes me feel I have reached a monumental pinnacle of accomplishment where my purpose in life is suddenly made clear magically because of my job, as if that is the most important part of life.
The aging, getting-wiser-by-the-day side of me is whispering something a bit more realistic to my self-centered soul lately. I’m starting to see if I spend so much time looking inward, wondering what my purpose is, I miss out on the fact that my purpose does not have to be tethered to what I do between the hours of 9 - 5:00 Monday through Friday.
As a friend so eloquently put it to me recently, “I live for 5-9:00 p.m., not 9-5:00.”
To be clear, some people feel extremely fulfilled by their work, and I love that too, but if your work doesn't light you up, it means you can still feel you have a purpose, right?
Having a purpose is not reserved just for those high up on the ladder.
My purpose could very well be to simply put my best self into the world, no matter where I am or how "small" the task at hand. I know--how boring, right? We all crave our purpose in life to be something more empowering and self-satisfying that caresses our ego well.
This is the year I stop doing that. I won’t quit striving to do more and apply myself more because that just makes life more meaningful, but I will lead the charge with a heart of giving and not wondering what’s in it for me or why I don’t have the exact career I think I deserve.
It's a real drag to hear that entitled part of my brain speak up. She’s whiny and usually spouts out thoughts like, "Well, I have a maaaaaaaster's degree. I should be doing more with my life!" And when those thoughts come to the surface, I end up missing out on good stuff right in front of me.
One of my favorite things is when I see someone with a seemingly unfulfilling job rise up and have a positive outlook about it.
I love to see a light in someone’s eyes with a quiet confidence that tells me they know their job doesn’t define them. What does define them is HOW they do their job and navigate life in general, and to see someone own that is powerful and really quite moving.
It’s as though they decide to put their best selves into their work instead of giving in to temptation to complain that it flat-out stinks to have a job that doesn’t make you feel like the world is complete because you’re in it.
Gosh, we all want that, don’t we? It's okay to admit that.
It reminds me to stop being an egocentric bag of turds who thinks she has to climb a corporate ladder to feel successful and have a glittery purpose in life because I’ll be honest with you, I can be an egocentric bag of turds at times, and it’s a waste of time.
I stopped at Speedway the other morning, and a worker there was frantically filling all the coffee pots. There was about 10 total. Rather than just pouring myself some coffee, I felt the need to tell her how great she was doing.
I said, “Dang, you’ve got a big job today!” She was a young woman maybe about 20, and answered with a smile and energy, “Yeah, the coffee is gone as quickly as I make it today.”
I answered back, “Well, you are doing so awesome. Keep it up.”
She was grateful and I paused for a second to hope that those words of encouragement might be enough to keep her staying positive and keep working hard and who knows how that positive focus might snowball into future success?
Maybe my “purpose” that day was to remind her “I see you. I see how hard you’re working, and I believe in you.” Maybe a purpose is as small and intimate as that in life and a lifetime of days like that adds up to a life full of deep purpose that surpasses any career.
There are no guarantees anyone will ever notice or give us praise for doing a good job. It might not lead to any more money or our names being written in lights. It might just mean we choose to fill each day with positivity, and at the end when we look back, what a far better way to live than to be in constant agony in search of a purpose that we’ve mistakenly attached to a day job.
Whether you’re flipping burgers, answering the phone at work for the 4,327th time, or cooking dinner for your kids who couldn’t be less grateful for your effort, let’s remember while we strive to figure out what our purpose is, we’re already knee-deep in it in how we choose to do this thing. And the next. And the next.
No matter how mundane and boring, how we carry ourselves and connect with others is exactly our unique stamp on this life, and that’s way bigger and more important than any day job.