Do you need to check in on your meaning and purpose?


It’s important to have a future that is inspiring and appealing. There have to be reasons why you get up in the morning and why you want to live. Think about what inspires you and what you can love about the future – being among the stars and a multi-planet species in a space-faring civilization is what’s beautiful and inspiring to me. I’m not trying to be anyone’s saviour, I’m just trying to think about the future and not feel sad.”

Elon Musk
TED conference, April 2017

Another very successful senior executive who was about to retire was encouraged to reflect on his career successes. Without arrogance, he presented a long list of his achievements.

“I suppose I’ve had a good run,” he concluded. “But I always wanted to be a zookeeper.”

Hopefully it wasn’t too late for him to consider a career move!


Are you doing what you always wanted to do?

If this story resonates with you, maybe it’s time to reflect on how you got where you are right now, in your role, in your organisation? Has your career panned out as you expected? Are you content with the contribution you’re making? Does your work provide you with a sense of meaning and purpose?

These big questions aren’t easily contemplated. Deep reflection on questions like these requires the right environment and the right time. But wellbeing research tells us you shouldn’t neglect them.


Today, book a coffee with yourself at a favourite haunt and make the space to consider the following:

1. What gives you a sense of meaning and purpose in your role?

a. What do you find fulfilling now?

b. What do you value in or about your work?

c. What will sustain, inspire, motivate and direct your efforts this year?

2. Imagine yourself 5-10 years from now.

a. What will be important to you in this life stage? Think on a broad canvas – in and outside of work. How you would like to be feeling, thinking and behaving?

b. Align your workplace decisions and actions to fulfil your 5 or 10-year vision.

c. Pen a letter to your future self, expressing what you feel will be important to you.

3. What can you change? Reflect on the choices open to you now that could change your role (or your approach to your role) for the better.

a. If you can’t change your situation, think about changing your responses. Challenge your habits and autopilot responses. Look for ways to take a stand, choose your own path and decide what you want to   stand for as a leader.

4. Is it time to make a choice? If you’re not deriving meaning and purpose from your role, you have choices to make. You can:

a. Reframe what you’re achieving in the role and see if that creates more meaning.

b. Look for ways to increase your autonomy, sense of competence and connections in the workplace.

c. Discuss with your people leader what other opportunities might re-engage your enthusiasm and passion in this role.

d. Look for a new role elsewhere in the organisation or a new organisation.

And finally, remember, no one else can give you meaning. You have to find it for yourself.  Individuals vary in the amount they seek meaning and care about finding it.  Whilst few of us find one lifelong purpose or calling, all of us can find meaning each day if we look for the opportunities to add significance in our daily lives.