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66. Finding Purpose in What You Do

Much of the time we're on automatic pilot. We don't think about what we're doing, let alone why we're doing it. This week's tip is about raising our consciousness in a particular way - to ask why it is that we are doing something. If we could all bring this one simple question to everything we did, I believe it would enrich our lives beyond measure. See if you agree.... If you ever go on a course in personal, or professional, or organisational development there is more than a fighting chance that at some point you'll be tasked with discovering your 'Purpose'. The alarming assumption is that you have such a thing, and if you haven't (even after considerable soul-searching), feelings of inadequacy may well ensue. It is the capital 'P' that is so intimidating - it seems to imply that one should be directing a lifetime of energy and passion into democratizing the Middle East, halving the infant mortality rate in Africa, or being the sole architect of ethical capitalism, and that anything less is probably not worth mentioning. A gentler and more approachable cousin of 'Purpose' is 'purpose'. The small 'p' version does not require an all-consuming vision, indefatigable perseverance or many years in prison, but it does have the potential to bring a sense of value and satisfaction to just about anything you do. So if we were talking effort to reward ratios, the efficiency ratings would be high for this less ostentatious relative. A major difference between the two kinds of purpose is that we tend to view the bigger one as something which arises in certain people, unbidden, as if it were their destiny. We view it as something people are either blessed with or not. We may be in favour of animal welfare, for example, but if the fire doesn't burn in our belly for that cause, there's not much we can do about that. The other kind of purpose however is always there, reachable, just under the surface of everything we do. For example, although it's quite possible to write these tips without giving a thought to my purpose, there always is one if I look for it. Up till this moment I've been doing what I always do, running with an idea that has popped into my mind for some reason. But now I stop to think about it, I realise that my real purpose in writing it is to give you the chance, today, to spot a reason for doing something that will double your enjoyment and satisfaction in doing it. Perhaps it's because saying such a thing goes so against the British modesty grain that we have lost sight of why we do things, and so lost a sense of our significance? Try this: 1. Think of something you are planning to do today. If you're at home it might be doing some gardening or housework, taking the children to the park, watching television. If you're at work it may be a meeting with colleagues, seeing clients or working on a project. It could be something as big as making an important decision, or something as small as feeding the cat. 2. Briefly imagine yourself doing it and rate your likely enjoyment or satisfaction with the activity, out of ten. 3. Now consider what your purpose is in doing that activity. So if it's housework, why are you doing it? To make your home clean and tidy so that you and others can enjoy being there? Because it relaxes you to do something practical? To help out your partner, who has an important deadline to work to? If it's a project at work, what are you trying to achieve? To improve a service so that clients benefit? To increase business so you don't have to lose staff? If this is difficult, try asking the questions, what will happen if I do this thing, and what will happen if I don't? 4. Again, run through what you will do, this time with your purpose in mind, and notice any differences in how you approach and experience the activity. Rate your likely satisfaction out of ten. 5. Repeat as required. Have a purposeful week! Anita