How purpose can contribute to your self-worth at work

Bruce Daisley’s The Joy of Work is an uplifting manifesto about how we can improve culture in the workplace to make our careers happier. 

The book is broken up into 30 chapters so you can pick and choose which tried and tested, scientifically-backed strategy is best suited to your work culture.   

Purpose vs purpose
In the Sync section, Daisley sites the work of author Daniel Pink, who famously devised a model to explain the three factors that contribute to our levels of motivation at work: autonomy, mastery, and purpose

‘Purpose’ is a word that’s increasingly used when people describe what kind of career, or life, they want to have. Perhaps that’s because we’ll be working and living much longer than our predecessors, so we want all that time to be useful in serving something greater than ourselves. Maybe the need to find a ‘purpose’ also stems from societal pressure, as that buzz word pops up a lot in motivational quotes, like these:

“Find a purpose in life so big it will challenge every capacity to be at your best.” – David O. McKay

“Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.” – Stephen Hawking

If you’re not yet clear on what your purpose is, those sort of quotes can seem overwhelming and totally daunting. However, what Daisley shares in The Joy of Work about purpose is far more realistic and practical, and I would even argue game changing.

Through his conversation with Daniel Pink, he learns that there are two types of purpose: the first being Purpose (capital p), which involves doing work that’ll change the world or impact peoples’ lives on a grand scale, such as solving the climate change crisis or tackling homelessness. While this type of work has an extraordinary Purpose, it’s unlikely that we’ll all be working to that level of impact every day.

The second type is purpose (lower-case p): this involves doing work that, simply put, makes a contribution. This contribution doesn’t have to be on a grand scale – it could be that a task you do within your role makes a colleague’s life a whole lot easier. Or if you didn’t show up to work today, what wouldn’t get done? The fact that others depend on you means that you make a contribution, and therefore you have purpose in your job. This purpose is a much more realistic, attainable goal that we can all work towards. 

So I ask you this: what contribution are you making at work?

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