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The Search for Purpose

A life-long search for meaningful work

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Searching for Purpose
Searching for Purpose

As I get older I find it harder and harder to recall memories from childhood. I accept this as a fact of life, but it makes me feel a bit sad all the same. Some memories, however, stand out so clearly that you can travel back to that place in time in an instant, and remember exactly how you felt in that moment. For me, one of those memories is an assignment I had in grade 1. The assignment itself was simple enough. Draw a picture of what you wanted to be when you grew up. We were supposed to do a really good job with this particular assignment because it was going to be hung up on the bulletin board in the hallway for parent information night. We needed to bring our very best colouring and printing to the task. I was stressed. I had no idea what to draw. What did I want to “be” when I grew up? And how were all the other kids in my class so sure about what they wanted to be, that they could just get on with it and start drawing? 

Because this was such an important assignment, we had a few days to work on it. I thought about it all night, and into the next morning when I woke up. I knew that I wanted to be authentic in what I drew, but I just didn’t have the answer. I felt like a failure that I hadn’t figured out what I wanted to be, like all the other kids in my class. I was 6. To hide my failure, I decided I would just copy what some of the other girls were drawing. My friend Pam beside me was going to be a nurse, so I decided that is what I would draw too. I had fun drawing the picture, but I can still feel the weight of the shame I experienced when my teacher and I walked out of the classroom and into the hallway to hang that picture up on the bulletin board. I had lied. To myself, to my teacher and to everyone who walked by that bulletin board. I had lied about who I really was and who I wanted to be. Before this assignment, I hadn’t even given a moments thought to how I wanted to spend the working years of my life. I felt like I was already losing a race I hadn’t even known I was in. There I was, at 6 years old, beginning a long journey to find my purpose. 

Fast forward three decades, and I found myself working for a large corporation, doing work that I enjoyed, but feeling out of alignment and unfulfilled by my day to day. I was grateful for my circumstance: I was earning a stable income and I was afforded work-life balance with the ability to work from home often. As a working mother, I didn’t feel like I had the right to ask for more or to expect to be fulfilled by the work that I do. My ‘basic’ functional needs were being met and I knew I should feel thankful for what I had, without questioning or rocking the boat. As the years went along however, the growing disconnect between my values and motivators and the culture I was operating within became harder to reconcile. I became disengaged in my work and Sunday’s were filled with a heavy sense of dread. It felt like there was no where to go and I was trapped in this reality that met my external needs, while my internal needs remained unfulfilled. I recognized the toll this was taking on me. I was less motivated to do what I needed to do at work and at home, I was more irritable with my family and I felt exhausted a lot of the time.  Unlike when I was six years old, now I knew what I wanted to do, but I felt like the risk it would take to get there was too great, and perhaps too selfish, when I had a family that relied upon me. 

Working moms become accustomed to saying no to themselves. They willingly put their own dreams and priorities on the back burner while they take care of everyone else. Finally, after a decade of pushing my own purpose out of my mind, I decided to take a bet on me and I took the leap. With a breath of fresh air I began to fulfill my purpose and embarked on a journey to help other people achieve their own fulfillment.

A Purpose journey never really comes to an end, as it is always evolving just as we do. But when you wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day, when you meet others with a welcoming smile and end your days with a sense of fulfillment, you know you are well on your way!

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