Let me introduce myself. I’m Nicky – I’m Ilana’s mum and I’ve previously been unwittingly referenced in her blogs (usually in relation to food…).
Ilana and I spend a lot of time discussing the various ideas we come across in the world of happiness and wellbeing, and Ilana has encouraged me to share something of my own personal experiences. So I decided to write about purpose – in relation to wellbeing in the workplace.
Just to contextualise, I work for a large insurance company and over the last few years, there has been fantastic development in our organisation in promoting awareness of mental health, as well as the introduction of measures to improve wellbeing in the workplace. These have included mental health awareness courses and the training of employees in emotional intelligence – from board level down. The fact that we are even talking about mental health represents an amazing shift in company attitudes – a far cry from the usual themes of company results and targets, which dominated communication in the past.
As part of this shift, about 18 months ago, I was invited to attend “Engage”, a three day training programme at Aston University which was all about discovering, developing and working with “purpose”. The course was fairly new at the time, few had experienced it (although it has now been attended by all people managers in the company). However, my colleagues who had already taken the training, gave me some small insights – one confided that he believed the programme had changed his life, and another told me not to expect an easy ride.
The three days I spent at the course were certainly a rollercoaster. Moment to moment I was having fun, being challenged, and hugely inspired.
To start the course, in each group, a member of the Executive Committee of our organisation shared their personal purpose. In our group, the Learning and Development Director described his purpose as “breaking down the barriers to allow others to reach their potential”. After talking about the purpose of the trainers and some other colleagues who had previously attended the course, we worked on finding our own “purpose”, working through our values, drivers, principles, ambitions and dreams to do this.
“What is my purpose?” was a question I grappled with throughout the three days, and continue to do so. After a lot of work, however, I have discovered that purpose does not have to be as big as finding world peace or developing a cure for the common cold, but can be much smaller and more simple.
Dan Pontefract, author of “The Purpose Effect”, defines personal purpose as “the perpetual journey to continually develop, define and decide your what, who and how” – what we do, who we are and how we do things. He also says that “It is critically important to know yourself if you want to achieve a sense of purpose in life or work – it is essential for individuals to find their personal purpose and for organisations to provide opportunities for personal purpose to align with the company purpose. This is not a one-off exercise but an on-going activity”.
Personally, I have learnt that something I am driven by is a desire to make things happen and get things done. This is what I do at work, but is also something I enjoy in my personal life. I love the satisfaction of checking things off a to-do list, putting together a large family gathering or even completing deliveries of a pile of 50 community magazines. I am lucky that for me there is some alignment between this and the work I do.
So, what I want to share with you is the importance of recognising what drives you as a person, what makes you happy and how your work life serves these things… as this is what leads to fulfillment. I am not saying that if your job doesn’t obviously serve your personal purpose you must immediately embark on a new career path. Instead, the key to fulfillment at work is to fully understand yourself – your values, drivers, principles, ambitions and dreams and concentrate on the elements of your work that do align with them. By identifying the parts of your work that do fulfill your purpose, it suddenly becomes far easier to find enjoyment in what you are doing day-to-day.