Purpose equals a zone of genius. Your purpose or zone of genius is that innate skill, hobby, or interest that you love and are good at. But it also brings value to other people. The challenge is many people have no clue how to figure it out.
Naturally, we are a people that enjoy many things while simultaneously being really good at things we may not enjoy at all. It’s true. You may enjoy painting murals and playing the piano in your free time, but you could be creating content or handling business operations in your 9 to 5.
Marrying those many intricate aspects of your life can seem difficult, nearly impossible. But it doesn’t have to be. When you decide it’s time for a change and you want to have a career, or life in general, that is more purposeful, there are three major things to consider.
In Episode 12 of the Fork in the Road podcast, we spoke with Dr. Arlene Pace Green, an organizational psychologist, career coach, and author of the book You deserve to love your job. In the episode, she deep-dived into finding purpose and we’ve compiled helpful tidbits from our discussion that you can apply now to move toward living a life with intention.
Reflect & Define
Reflection is going to be the most crucial part of your journey to finding purpose. You cannot look ahead to where you want to go without first looking back on where you came from.
Consider this: You want to be completely clear on what you want and what you don’t want out of life. That means you have to ask yourself the hard questions about what it is that you are running from.
The best way to go through the reflection process is through journaling. Start by writing down your thoughts and ideas. Dr. Arlene suggests starting with a chart using the following 3 wedges of the “clarifying your purpose” framework: What do I love to do, what am I good at, and what do people find valuable?
Consider forming it as a Venn diagram so that where all three meet in the middle is the spot where your purpose or zone of genius lies. When you speak to those who are living in their purpose, you will find that a purposeful career embodies all three pieces of the purpose framework. You love it, you’re good at it, and others find it valuable.
What do you love to do?
Reflect on all areas of your life, whether personal or professional, and consider when you're happiest. What activities bring you the most joy? What job responsibilities do you have that excite you?
Write those down in the Things You Love to Do circle.
What are you good at?
Once you’ve written down what you love to do, start to pinpoint which of those you are good at. Sometimes, we have interests, hobbies, and responsibilities that we don’t do very well but they can still be fulfilling. So, it’s important to align the interests you love with those that you can do well, too.
Think about your job responsibilities, but also think about what people come to you for outside of work. Maybe you’re great at creating graphics so your friends come to you when they need logos. Or perhaps, you do a wonderful job at organizing family events.
Think outside of the box when you’re completing this step.
What do other people find valuable?
The truth is that whatever your purpose is, it should be positively impactful toward other people. What you do should be to help others, and that could be in a paid or unpaid format.
Question what makes your skill valuable. Why do other people need it? What problem are you helping to solve? Will people pay me for it?
The answer to these questions should align with the interests or skills you’ve identified that you both love and are good at.
Prioritize the Work
Once you’ve identified your purpose, the worst thing you can do is not take action. I know that it seems as if we never have enough time, but you have to make time for following your purpose.
Start by learning through courses, articles, videos, podcasts, etc., but don’t get stuck there. Dr. Arlene calls it “procrastiplanning” which is essentially procrastinating by planning. You can’t afford to stay in a cycle of learning, but instead, you should follow a learn, do, learn, do pattern.
What you must understand about finding your purpose is that it is a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight in one defining moment for most people (what Dr. Arlene likes to refer to as the Newton Apple moment.) Instead, you are constantly moving towards it. “You have to try new things, try new roles, and invest in your strengths.”
Of course, we are living in a world of instant gratification. We want things to happen immediately, but Dr. Arlene suggests enjoying the process and celebrating learning new strengths.
“We love learning because it doesn’t require the risk or commitment of actually going out and doing.”
Find the motivation to take small steps toward your goals each day. Completing smaller steps will give you the motivation to take on bigger challenges in the future and you may even find that those little things bring you joy.
Align Your Work to Your Purpose
The last step in this process is to begin to align your work to your purpose. It’s important to think outside of the box, but more importantly, avoid thinking in extremes.
Dr. Arlene suggests that most people think in extremes and that form of thinking is what keeps them stuck.
“We think either, you know what, I’m going to be in this job for the next 40 years. And I’m just going to bang it. I went to school for it, I invested 10-15 years in it...the other extreme is I’m just going to sell everything I have…totally change everything in my life and get a new career, " says Pace.
For some people, this may be the right answer, but there is a middle ground you can take.
“There are so many things in the middle between the two extremes that are actual steps you can take….put the extremes to the side and take a step," Pace continues.
Focus on the next step and consider all of your options. Take a class, volunteer, switch companies, take a role using your current skills in a company that aligns with what you enjoy, etc.
Figuring out your purpose requires sacrifice. You have to decide first that it is important to you and that you will make the time to reflect, learn, and take action.
Listen to the full episode HERE.