How to discover purpose
in your life and your work
By Craig Nathanson - The Vocational Coach
Why is this important?
All of us are born with most aspects of our lives already established
for us. Our economic status, cultural identity, personality,
core values and our customs are waiting for us when we are born.
For many people, this predetermined life is lived without question
all through life. This naturally extends to our work, our relationships,
and how we view the world.
What can happen?
Because all of this has been decided for us, most of us live
our lives on autopilot. When it comes to our work, we often
take the same jobs as our parents did. Or perhaps we just take
their philosophy about our work. We may have jobs only to support
our families, with no thought given to whether the work makes
us happy or not. We may get used to making lots of money, and
soon we get into so much debt we think there is no way out except
through promotion and upward movement to make even more money.
We believe we will get out of debt someday, and then finally
do something we enjoy more. We may stick to jobs we dislike
because of fear that others, especially our loved ones, might
leave us or reject us if we seek more joyful work. Worse yet,
we feel internal guilt and selfishness for wanting more out
of our work life.
Where do you stand?
A famous Japanese proverb says vision without action is a daydream
and action without vision is a nightmare. Spiritual leader Gandhi
Mohandas believed you must be the change you want to see in
So how about you?
What change do you want to see in the world? Is this reflected
in your work and what you do each and every day? Is your work
joyful, and full of meaning?
Does your reason for doing this work make sense to you?
Do you leap out of bed in the morning, tripping over yourself
to get dressed because you are so excited to start working?
If not, read on….
How do you get started?
While I think the world would be a better place if all did
the work we love, this is still a challenge for many people.
It all starts with a Purpose. While I think it would be wonderful
if every one of us had a special purpose like Mother Theresa
did, the special purpose will always be different for each person.
There are lots of things in the world that disturb me deeply.
It bothers me that in many communities we have lost that sense
of place and togetherness.
It saddens me that over 20,000 people a day die of starvation.
It frustrates me that in America so many people do not have
access, or can’t afford proper health care.
In fact, I have many personal missions for making this world
a better place, and that I would like to spend my life pursuing.
But I am also realistic—I know that, to truly make a difference,
one must choose and focus on a single cause that motivates them
to get up in the morning.
For the second half of my life, I have chosen to focus on helping
people over 40 find more joy in their work. It’s a niche
I have studied and experienced and I feel I can make a contribution.
So I spend my time trying to improve the quality of life for
one person at a time by helping them to do more of what they
love with regards to their work.
Can you come up with a core niche you are passionate about?
The challenges you will encounter
As you define and pursue your purpose in your life and your
work, you will be lonely at times. You will find yourself surrounded
by many people just like you who are simply working at jobs
without desire or passion. They are just working for a paycheck.
While this is important, it is not sufficient after we turn
After forty, it is critical to find a way, not just to survive,
but to thrive, and to feel the excitement about each work day.
This is a sensation worth feeling. It will leave you breathless
and will influence everyone around you.
The other day, I spoke to a street artist in San Francisco who
spends his days spray painting murals that he sells for five
dollars each. As I watched him create his masterpiece, it occurred
to me that while his work was not MY passion, I was inspired
just watching his joy as he worked.
How to defeat the critics
First, define your Purpose. Then tell everyone you meet about
it. This will help to reinforce your path. Then plan to spend
the majority of your day focused on activities aligned with
This is the solution—it’s simple but it requires
discipline, courage and what some might perceive as great risk.
In mid-life, society encourages those over forty to be secure
Your time is now!
After forty, it is a great risk to your life and to those around
you NOT to do what you love. This is the time to take great
risks and gather the courage to break free of your predetermined
life. This is the time to create more joy and meaning in your
The shortcut to a happy life is to define your Purpose and carry
it out with enthusiasm and vigor!
You will never look back and, along the way, you’ll inspire
others to do the same.
As always, I’ll be cheering you on as you go.
Craig Nathanson is the author of P Is For Perfect: Your Perfect
Vocational Day and a coaching expert who works with people over
forty. Craig’s new E-book, Discover and live your passion
365 days a year is a workshop in a box designed to help busy
adults go insane with their work. Craig’s systematic approach,
the trademark "Ten P" process,’’ helps
people break free and move toward the work they love. Visit
Craig’s online community at http://www.thevocationalcoach.com
where you can take a class, get more ideas through Craig Nathanson’s
books and CD’s, get some private coaching over the phone
or read other stories of mid-life change and renewal.
Craig lives in Fairfax, California. You can reach him at 415-457-0550
or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Craig's Vocational Passion Newsletters are edited by Anita
Flegg at The Sharp Quill. The Sharp Quill -- www.sharpquill.com
-- specializes in writing and editing for small business. You
can see Anita's vocational story at http://www.thevocationalcoach.com/_vocational_community/_real_stories/story_anita.html
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