UPDATED ON 12/29/2021
Understanding the purpose behind any task reveals the power of our work and connects us to the people most affected.
This is a question we wonder all the time, maybe even all our entire lives.
“What is the purpose of my life?”
Very early on in my career, this question constantly lingered in my mind as I analyzed spreadsheets of satellite flight data in my cubicle.
Although I was diligently making progress in my assignments, I felt empty.
I couldn’t figure out why for the longest time. Then one night, I finally realized I could not sense the purpose of my contributions to the overall scheme of things. I learned that I honestly needed to know I had direct influence on someone. I still do.
In those days, I did what I was told. Some projects were not only on a need-to-know basis, but they were also highly classified. So I did not bother asking why something was done. I just did it.
In retrospect, I should have asked. The worst answer I could have gotten was a no.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which industry we work in. We have the right to ask why we must do something if we do not already know. Moreover, nothing stops us from making an educated inferences when authorities refuse to explain.
Understanding why we do something lifts our spirits. Now we could even put a face to it, which, in turn, motivates productivity. And we all know that translates to career advancements that create big impact.
Too many of us carry out our duties without inquiring.
Yet, in the back of our minds, don’t we find ourselves asking who the recipients of our work are and what are we supposed to accomplish for them?
I certainly did.
When I wonder about who the recipients are, I am not talking about the person who gave me the assignment. I am talking about the last person involved in the chain. This could be the team, department head, CEO, consumer, industry, or any other community at large.
Once identified, we then need to recognize why these people want the fruits of our labor and how does our fruits satisfy their why. The purpose.
The better we understand the recipients and the purpose, the better we can set goals and calibrate benchmarks for ourselves.
More importantly, it permits us to assess whether the tasks assigned are the best solutions to achieve those goals and benchmarks.
Furthermore, knowing the purpose allows us to reevaluate our initial solution. if we conclude that solution is not the best, then this presents a great opportunity to assume ownership, challenge status quo, and offer better solutions.
See the Bigger Picture
Along the same vein, acknowledging the end recipients and the purpose of our work helps us see how our contributions fit into the bigger picture.
Knowing why we are asked to do something in the first place really enhances accomplishment bullet points on resumes as well.
I frequently see bullet points that say, “assisted the manager” or “supported CEO” or “collaborated with department head”.
Truthfully, if we know why our leaders have asked us to assist, support, or collaborate with them, do we not have a part in making whatever it is real?
Leaders request our assistance so that they can achieve their goals. And when we know their goals, those goals become ours and we contribute to those goals.
When we realize this, these goals become our purpose, and the purpose is often the what we are actually accomplishing. The tasks is often the how of what we achieve for that purpose.
Besides, our leaders’ goals and purpose eventually play an instrumental part in reaching the company’s mission, changing the game of the entire industry and strengthening our communities.
Then when we write these into accomplishments on our resumes, we can skip the middle person because now our own contributions have a part in achieving those goals.
It’s a chain reaction. Get the bigger picture.
People exist as social beings hard-wired to help others.
And when we feel like we have zero effect on or — worse yet — hamper someone else, we get dejected.
That dejection demoralizes and immobilizes us. Soon, we go into work, chugging along like zombies or staring blankly at our computer screens, convinced that our work does not matter at all. It is absolutely paralyzing.
Do not go there.
When we know the purpose and integrate into the bigger picture ,self-approval and self-acceptance manifest from within. As long as we know our work is not a waste of time, we do not need recognition from others (although it would be awesome).
Self-approval and self-acceptance then cultivate self-confidence.
We know we are significant members of a much larger team.
And when we know we matter to our family, friends, and colleagues at a place where we spend 40 hours a week of our lives, we validate our own self-worth.
Live with Purpose
The wisest may innately know the meaning of life and live it.
For the rest of us, we may have pondered about it, discussed it, or read about it, but it may still remain a mystery.
Nonetheless, if we make ourselves significant to those we care about most, then perhaps that is what life means.
To be present.
Contribution does not necessarily take a whole lot of effort. All it requires is empathy and understanding. This creates purpose. What we need to do now is figure out ways to be a part of that purpose.
Surely, striving on a professional level serves as one of those ways.
Work is not just about completing an assignment. Work is suppose to fulfill goals for our leaders who are trying to make a difference in the world. The bigger picture in our communities. As such, we are part of it all. We matter.
Do this in our personal lives. Do this in our professional lives.
And that is what turns a job into a career.
I have designed a method to uncover the purpose behind every accomplishment. Find out how.