What's Next? How to Find Your Purpose in Life (7 Steps)
Something big is happening in the world of work right now. People are quitting their jobs in droves, triggering what analysts are calling the Great Resignation.
Why? More and more people are looking at how to find purpose in life, and are making dramatic career changes to help them find it.
What is the Great Resignation?
The term Great Resignation was coined by Anthony Klotz, an associate professor at Texas A&M University. 20 million American workers quit their jobs between April and August 2021, with the resignations impacting almost every industry and career level.
Whilst the trend might have started Stateside, it’s now started to spread. Studies are showing employment fluctuations in Europe, Latin America, Asia and around the world.
People’s priorities are starting to shift. Pre-pandemic, we were all very used to a traditional working model. But Covid changed all that…
Jo Hooper, a mental health at work mentor and coach, explains: “The last few years have given many of us a taste of how work could be. Not office-based, with more freedom, more understanding. For many, it’s been a wake-up call to what they might want to change about their work.”
We’re starting to realise just how much is possible. And for many of us, that means making some changes. So that we can start to live a life that’s more aligned with our purpose.
“I think many people want to slow down and live at a pace that allows them to squeeze more joy out of life than ever before,” says Alicia Kaye, a nurse turned life and career coach. “We have been living in a burnout epidemic for some years now, and I think a lot of people are now asking whether or not they want to keep pushing themselves to the brink of exhaustion, day in day out.”
How to cope with stress at work
If you’re struggling to cope with stress at work, you’re not alone. In 2020, 79% of British adults reported experiencing workplace stress. That’s 20% higher than just two years before.
And for many of us, handing in our notice simply isn’t an option. Nor should it have to be.
Mental health at work mentor and coach, Jo Hooper, advises that you start by isolating exactly what’s causing you the most stress. “Try to talk to your boss and clearly set out what is causing the stress and the impact it’s having on you.”
She goes on to recommend a series of different avenues you can take to help you cope with stress at work:
“Lots of us struggle to talk to someone at work about how we’re feeling. If that’s you, there are two routes (well, three):
- If your company has an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme), use it. This is a free, confidential phone line that offers advice on a range of things, mental health issues included. This is generally the fastest way to access talking therapy. You’ll be assessed on the phone and referred for a series of free sessions.
- Talk to your GP. They will offer a range of: time off work; talking therapy; and medication - based on what you need and want. Be aware that an NHS referral for talking therapy can take a long time (we’re talking months).
- Talk to a private GP. We often find it hard to get past GP receptionists when we’re struggling with our mental health because it’s hard to explain what’s wrong. With a private GP you can book online and be seen immediately. You’ll get a longer appointment and can still be referred or given prescriptions. Costs vary.”
As Jo says, “If you’re unhappy at work - know it doesn’t need to be that way. You have options, there is support available, seek it out.”
Why we need to remove the pressure from finding your purpose
Even with the best support systems in place, there may well come a time when you feel a craving for something different.
“People are craving to feel more connected and passionate about their work,” says Alicia Kaye. “Since the pandemic, people no longer want to sleepwalk through their days in jobs that aren't fulfilling or flexible.”
But as you go through the process of finding a form of deeper purpose in your life, it’s important to give yourself a little grace.
Take a short scroll through Instagram and you’ll see countless young people following their passion, sharing their dream lives and living out what appears to be everyone’s career fantasy.
Except finding your purpose isn’t that simple… So let’s get these purposeful truths out of the way first.
Not everyone knows their purpose right away
It takes time to figure out who you are and what you want to do with your life.
You need to try things out and find out how they feel. You’re going to need to follow unexpected paths to see where they take you. And you’re going to need to make a few mistakes (and learn from them) along the way.
It’s never too late to find your purpose
Some of the most successful people find their purpose later in life. They’re known as late bloomer entrepreneurs. And when you think about it, it makes sense.
They’ve got more experience under their belt. Which they then use to create a brand new chapter of their life, that suits where they are now. Not where they were, or where they think they’ll be. Just read one of these stories and we promise you you’ll get inspired! Remember, there is no rush.
Not everyone’s purpose is their career
We’ve all heard the saying “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. But what if your purpose doesn’t pay the bills?
The biggest lesson in life is that there’s no one way of doing things. You might happily find your purpose and turn that into your dream career. Or, you might not. Instead, you might find that your purpose is actually separate from your career. So it’s something you focus on outside of work instead. And that’s totally okay.
How to find your purpose in life
You’re about to start paying a lot of attention to one person. A person that you might typically ignore or move to the bottom of your priority list. Yep, that one person is you.
So get your favourite journal and start writing everything down. Your job over the next 3-6 months is to log everything. Then, you’re going to review it and see what comes up.
1. Track how you’re spending your time
Start by monitoring how you spend your days. We’re talking old school teenage journal style. Write down what you did, who it was with and (most importantly) how it made you feel.
You want to become hyper aware of what brings you the most joy, so you can start adding more of those into your life. And what brings you the most stress, so you can (you’ve guessed it) start removing those things from your life.
2. Chat with your friends about their careers
Most of us have a rough idea of what our friends do for a living. But few of us know or understand what goes on during those 8 hours they spend at the office each day.
So, start asking. Chat to your friends about their work and what they love about it. Try and get into the nitty-gritty details of their career, and see how you can use those details to inspire your own.
3. Monitor your jealousy
It might not feel like it, but jealousy is actually a really useful emotion. The unfortunate thing is that we’re never taught how to use it. You can use your experiences of jealousy to help you figure out what you want to do with your life.
Each time you experience jealousy, your body is trying to tell you something. Take a look at the thing that’s making you feel jealous and ask yourself “what is it about this situation that’s making me feel jealous?”. And then look at how you can bring some of that into your life.
4. Tune into your gut reaction
When companies started announcing their plans to return to the office, some employees were jumping for joy whilst others were grimacing into their morning lattes. Why? Well, their gut reaction was telling them something.
It was trying to tell them something about their workplace values. So the next time you hear people talking about how they work, or you’re asked to work in a certain way, pay close attention to your gut reaction.
This will help you determine what to look for in your career. Whether it’s working from home or in an office. Following set working hours or a flexible schedule. Working in a team or independently. Working for a big corporation or a small business. Chances are, your gut will know what you want before your brain does.
5. Uncover your personal values
“I would always encourage people to think deeply about their values and get really curious about what's important to them overall,” says Alicia.
“When we explore what means the most to us, we can start to understand what areas of our life need prioritising more than others, and it can help us gain some much-needed clarity in the short term.”
6. Look back through your childhood
There’s a certain period in your childhood where you’re free from society’s expectations. Where there aren’t any distractions stopping you from tuning into your intuition. And you’re able to focus on the things that truly bring you happiness, without worrying about what anyone else thinks.
Take a look back through those times. What stands out to you? Maybe you loved making up stories or could always be found playing with animals. Test the waters and try bringing those things back into your life. And see what happens.
7. Consider what you don’t want
“For those really struggling, I'd encourage you to spend some time thinking about what you don't want,” suggests Alicia. “It can seem counterintuitive, and we call this 'away from motivation' in the coaching world.”
“Sometimes, it can be challenging to think about the purpose we want to move towards when we are really bogged with the here and now. It's often easier to think about what we don't want and then build up upwards from there during times of uncertainty and struggle.”
So if that’s you right now, try to simplify your search for purpose. And consider what you don’t want it to be before you start considering what you do.
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