Business Magazine

Really, Is It Possible to Find Both Purpose and Joy In Your Job?

By Shrinkingthecamel

Really, Is It Possible to Find Both Purpose and Joy In Your Job?Everyone knows I love a good matrix.

As a former/recovering consultant, I am convinced that the secrets of the entire universe can be explained by a chart with four quadrants.

No, but really. By and large, the matrix framework has proven to be a simple and elegant method to frame out a perspective of the world by getting to the essence of things. (Just ask Boston Consulting Group.)

That being said, one of the foundational points of reference we used at the Leadership & Spirituality Summit last month was – can you guess? A matrix! This particular version was adapted (and by that I mean, “ripped off”) from an original version developed by the world famous executive coach to Fortune 500 CEOs, Marshall Goldsmith in his book, Mojo. But we tweaked it a bit to reflect a more spiritual aspect of things. Or, as former American Idol judge Paula Abdul would say, “…To make it our own.”

Not that I think Marshall would mind, so long as we give him credit and all. But you and I both know darn well that he’ll never know about this since he is flitting about in the Fortune 500 CEO stratosphere while we are merely scrounging around here in the dim alleys of a tertiary regional middle market. Plus my blog only gets, like, 100 visits a day.  

So back to the matrix – Here is the premise:

To be spiritually engaged in your work generally requires two things:

(1) You must find long-term meaning and purpose in the work that you do, or the role that you are in; and,

(2) you also must find joyful engagement in your every day activities, tasks and relationships.

Long-term purpose, and joyful engagement. These are, of course, two completely different levels of experience. It is one thing to extract some kind of long-term meaning from your job, believing that the work you are doing has a lasting impact on the world. But it is quite another to consider if you like what you do every day.

The bottom line is that we will be most effective as leaders if we create both – to have significance and satisfaction in our working lives.

The question is whether you are intentionally moving towards that end, or just living off the inertia of what happened yesterday.

So, here is the matrix.

Really, Is It Possible to Find Both Purpose and Joy In Your Job?

The vertical line represents the extent to which you find long-term meaning and purpose in your work, and the horizontal axis represents the extent to which you find joy in what you do every day.

Now, let’s talk through the four quadrants. At any point in time, we are “living” in one of these modes, reflecting the ongoing tension of trying to balance our career lives.

Surviving. On the lower left is the situation when you are low in meaning and low in engagement. The technical term this is, “It Sucks.” You are in survival mode. Which is not a very good place to be. In this case you must ask, are you in the right job? Do you have the right attitude, the right spirit?  How can God reveal a higher pathway through this situation?

Sacrificing. On the upper left, one finds a high score for purpose and meaning, but not much enjoyment. Think of Mother Theresa, who for most of her years of service felt no joyful connection to God. Or, you may have taken a job that is a stepping stone to something better – it may build your career and get you where you want to be for the long term, but is not that satisfying for the moment.

Stimulating describes someone high on joyful engagement, but low on long-term meaning. Maybe you enjoy what you do, but feel like you’re not making a difference in the long term, or you are not having much of an impact. Or it’s like spiritual cotton candy, enjoyable for the moment, but without much spiritual depth or awareness of the greater good that you could be doing.

Succeeding. Here is where we would all like to be – the place where we are joyfully engaging in our work each day, while tuned in to the greater benefit we are creating for the world around us. Here is where one’s talents and gifts are aligned with the job they are doing. Here is when you are in your groove, transcending the daily activities and flowing with the Spirit to accomplish the greater good.

What we all want is to spend more time “succeeding”. If you can find greater purpose in your leadership role and extract joyful engagement while you are doing it, you will be not only helping yourself, but others around you.

So where are you on this matrix?

What are you going to do about it?

Photo by nance. Used with a fishy permish.


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