How to find your purpose in a post-Covid world

Individuals as well as businesses need to re-examine the way they do things and take conscious steps towards creating a mindset and culture of purpose, says Hult Ashridge’s Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic

As we re-evaluate our work lives post-Covid-19, reflecting on, or discovering, individual purpose is becoming more important than ever before.

The growing search for purpose

According to author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, it all starts with finding your personal ‘why’. Sinek describes ‘why’ as the one thing you care about more than anything else in the world. When you ‘start with why’, you can then further understand the purpose.

We live in a time where many individuals are re-evaluating work. Some have branded this ‘the Great Resignation’. A number of people have lost their jobs, and many more are working remotely or in a hybrid way. People are resigning as they strive to find purpose and meaning in their work and lives and thinking about the legacy they want to leave – not a financial legacy, but their stamp on the world.

Many have been through great emotional and physical upheaval during the last two years, and world events have caused us to think about work in ways we would never have, pre-Covid. We are all re-evaluating what we want out of our lives. The conversation about purpose and work is going mainstream, but some people may be unsure how to find it.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review shows that most people who work aren’t happy in their jobs, and that to increase happiness they need to focus on purpose. In the US alone, 65% of employees are looking for a new job, according to a 2021 survey by PwC. That’s a huge shift from what it was like just two years ago, when only 20% of employees were looking to make a career move.

According to a survey on what matters most to employees in the post-Covid world from the Barrett Values Centre, making a difference for the world is now one of the top aspirations for employees. Various other studies conducted over the years show that our current working culture is not conducive to happiness, and companies are beginning to realise this. Even before the pandemic, we saw evidence (discussed in my 2014 book, The Management Shift) of low levels of engagement, trust, passion for work and lack of purpose. Employees are becoming more aware about their work-life balance and are looking for companies that offer meaningful careers and purpose, instead of short-term payoffs.

Uncovering your purpose

Regardless of the path you choose, there will always be challenges to face. However, if you have taken the time to reflect on your passions, purpose and motivations, you will increase your resilience and be better prepared for whatever comes your way. Individuals as well as businesses need to re-examine the way they do things and take conscious steps towards creating a mindset and culture of purpose.

Purpose is a powerful motivator. People who feel like they are working towards something greater than themselves are happier, more productive, and more engaged than those who are not. So how do you get started?

A good starting point to uncover your purpose would be to reflect on the following questions:

  • What were your childhood dreams? What were you passionate and excited about, and can you remember that feeling?
  • What are you intrinsically motivated to do?
  • What energises you?
  • What is your mission?
  • What are you good at?

If you are a young professional, you might also find it useful to consider these questions:

  • What does my future look like?
  • How do I get there?
  • What do I want to get out of my career?
  • Where do I want to be in five, 10 or 20 years?
  • How can I find fulfilment in my job?
  • How can I make my work meaningful?

The challenges we face when growing up, such as finding our place in the world and learning to balance life with work and family, have not changed throughout human history. Yet in today’s fast-paced world, most adults suffer from a lack of fulfilment because they are too focused on what they need to do rather than why they want to do it. As a result, their inner child is pushed aside and ignored. Our collective happiness depends on balancing our responsibilities with our desires.

If you are still searching for purpose, you could benefit from having a few different conversations with people who know you well and would be open enough to talk with you about your life, feelings and interests. They may find common themes that you have missed. Finally, imagine your ideal day. Where have you gone? What exactly are you doing? Use all of your senses. Picture your day, see the image big, bright and colourful right in front of you. Whatever makes you feel good, it is guiding you towards your purpose.

In this new world that is emerging, it is very important to discover and live to your inner purpose to increase levels of resilience, wellbeing, meaning and happiness. We can choose how we approach life and its challenges, and living a meaningful life is one of the important tools we can use to thrive, both now and in the future.

Main image credit: Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Vlatka Ariaana Hlupic is a Professor of Leadership and Management at Hult Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School. She is also the Founder and CEO of the training, coaching and consultancy firm, Management Shift Solutions Limited, as well as the author of The Management Shift and Humane Capital.

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