Your Work Relationships Provide the Clues to Your Purpose

This is the first in a six-part series on “Purpose Sparks.” Including one or more of these criteria in your job will get you closer to your purpose through work. This week’s Purpose Spark is ‘Engaging with Others.’

Toa Heftiba via Unsplash

Purpose may be the word of the moment—with good reason. 

Studies show that people who live long, happy lives are productive, service-driven and fulfilled in their careers. They have a reason to get out of bed each day and are committed to their work, surrounded by others who share a common goal. They have a purpose.

This connection between self and service starts within us and connects to the world around us. It provides the sense that we are contributing to others, that our efforts have a broader meaning. When we engage with others, we feel connected to ideals, visions, and movements that are bigger than us.

A people-facing job will provide us with new clues about our purpose. Engaging with others at work helps us recognize the community we want, lack or enjoy, which is critical to a fulfilling life. It also helps us feel more connected to a mission that is bigger than our day jobs. Whether you’re a sales clerk or a computer engineer, when you engage with others, purposeful moments appear everywhere.

For example, one participant in our Project X Purpose Accelerator program kept receiving simple compliments from peers about her facilitation skills. This made her look at that gift through a different lens. It came so naturally, she had been quick to ignore it as a calling.

Why Engaging Others Gets You Closer to Your Purpose

Think back to a moment when you stood up for your values. Maybe you spoke out against someone stereotyping another or refused an assignment because it went against your moral compass. Did you do it on your own or did you get support? As New York Times columnist David Brooks says, individually, “our compassion is not strong enough to consistently defeat selfishness, pride, and self-deception.” We’re far more likely to do the right thing when we have others around us sharing in our efforts.

Connecting with others is more profound than small talk: it’s about showing vulnerability so others can reciprocate.

For those of us committed to purposeful lives, developing deep connections is what provides us with guidance and support when we are challenged, want to make a change or hope to become a different or better version of ourselves.

Related: How to Find Meaning in Your Work Even if It Isn’t Your Dream Job

Engaging With People at Work

Our jobs are not always people-facing. Many of us spend more hours than we care to admit in front of a screen. Increasing meaningful connections at work reduces stress and can spark clues about our deeper purpose. 

Here are 3 ways we can instigate more authentic people-facing time at work:

  1. Turn a simple interaction into a meaningful one. Instead of meeting by the coffee machine and chatting weather, ask the person in front of you this question: “What are you most grateful for today?” (Worst case scenario, you scare them away—but you could also reinforce a meaningful connection and learn something new.)
  2. Crowdsource your office “why.” Get with a group of colleagues from different parts of the organization. Describe your role to them. Then, ask them to help you understand the “why” behind your day-to-day work. With each answer, respond with why is that important? By the time you’ve asked this why the fifth time, you’ll have new insight into the bigger purpose behind your work.
  3. 15-minute colleague share. Pick a small challenge you are facing at work. Approach a colleague and ask them if you can spend 15 minutes describing it and ask them for feedback. Then have them do the same with a challenge of theirs. This moment of collaboration will deepen empathy, support, and connection.

Deepening Human Connection Outside of Work

Connecting with others is more profound than small talk: it’s about showing vulnerability so others can reciprocate. At Project X, we do a variation on “speed dating” to get folks quickly connected and supportive of one another. 

Next time you’re in a social situation, and you’re talking to people, ask and answer more intimate questions such as these:

  • What are you most proud of?
  • What are you doing this week (or month) that makes you truly happy?
  • What skill would you like to learn and why?
  • What is the most defining moment in your day (week, year or life)?

Engaging with others is core to being a human being. It’s also a critical step in figuring out why we’re put on this earth. Do more of it at work and at home, and clues about your purpose will appear everywhere. As you gather these clues, check out our weekly Top 10 Purposeful Jobs listings for inspirational people-facing jobs and learn more about the other five “Purpose Sparks” at work in our next article in this series.

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