Searching for a more meaningful life?
Here’s the hard hitting truth: no one is going to hand you an envelope containing your life purpose, not even if it comes in the form of an employment letter at an NGO or a tech start up. You’re gonna have to write that shit yourself, and you might as well start now, right where you are.
As a millennial I am plagued like the rest of you with the ‘what’s my purpose’ question that is hard to shake. I seek higher meaning in the work that I do, I have moments of ‘damn the man’, and I often put pressure on myself to do something with my life that feels like it has soul. But as much as these moments come up (and I admit, it is often), it is important for me to remember that quitting my job, moving to Bali and pursuing a career in spiritual enlightenment (and yoga teaching) isn’t always the right choice. So before you hand over your resignation, just consider why you might actually want to keep your day job.
In his book Sapiens, Yuval Harrari talks of the fictitious reality that we live in. Money, organisations, cities, even government, are all just stories that we subscribe to. The essence of an organisation is not tangible, there is no pointing to it on a map to say, that’s it, right there. It is the belief in the organisation and what it stands for, what it offers, and what its values are that we are subscribing to, making it appear real. And this is a necessary part of our evolution, because without the story of the cities we live in and organisations we work in, as a species we might not have made it this far.
But here’s the problem: we’ve gotten to a point where we often criticise the very institutions that we are part of and whose ‘stories’ we are buying into. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone of my generation, or even those before me, say the phrase ‘our government is f*cked’ (I live in Australia, we love to over exaggerate with the f word here), I’d be less concerned about my expensive coffee habit. But is it really the Government’s fault? Or the Banks’ fault? Or social media’s fault? Or are we letting the current story rule us. It’s not that complicated in my mind; if you don’t like the story then what are you doing to re-write it? After all, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
Think about the opportunity that exists within your place of work for you to live out your purpose. The world doesn’t need more lone rangers selling self-help books or naturopathy oils, it needs people like you and me who are working in society in these large institutions, adding our whacky flare and living out our purpose from the inside out. I work in an organisation that employs more people across Australia than any other company in the country. And it’s had its fair share of scandal and media bash ups. For a while I struggled with that; until I realised that I AM the soul of this big bad organisation. I work here every day, I call these people my colleagues and my friends, and I represent that brand that so many people love to hate. If I am not taking control of that narrative, then I am just as bad as the fabricated stories that tell us that companies like mine have ‘no soul’.
So, my advice to my fellow millennials, or anyone out there searching for purpose and meaning in their work, is not to discount the opportunity that exists in organisations big and small for growth, learning, development, and meeting people from all walks of life. Use this to your advantage. Create purpose and meaning within the context of what you’re already doing because chances are you worked damn hard to get to where you are, and that’s not something to throw away so quickly.