The pursuit of happiness is a race humanity participates in together. The good news is that there’s no limit to the number of winners in this race. The bad news is that many people don’t make it off the starting blocks. Work makes up a significant portion of our lives — so, unsurprisingly, it’s a major factor in our happiness level. How can we improve our work lives to boost happiness?
Too often, we live with a nagging sense that we’re missing out on our purpose in the world. Our personal purpose and our day-to-day work often feel disparate. Here’s a framework you can use to align your personal mission with your work goals.
1. Identify Your Values
The Cheshire Cat told Alice in Wonderland, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” Before you can connect your personal mission with your work, you need to understand your mission. And understanding your mission requires knowing your core values.
You’ll need to spend some time looking inward and considering what’s truly important to you. Here are some questions to get you started:
- Who do you most admire? Why?
- When you feel most at peace, what activities are you participating in?
- What brings you joy?
- Which accomplishment are you most proud of?
- What accomplishment most disappointed you after you achieved it?
- What talents do you believe you’ve been given?
- If you could trade positions with anyone, who would that be? Why?
- What do you want people to say about you?
- Which of your character traits are you most thankful for?
2. Consider Who You Serve
At work, who are you helping? If you’re in leadership, maybe it’s your employees or team members. Do you interact with customers or clients? How about your coworkers? Maybe you’re working on a project that will improve the lives of a particular population. Personal mission usually has to do with working together to accomplish something meaningful, reaching out to improve another’s life, or creating change that’s needed — all of which impact other people in some way.
Get a clear picture of who these people are, and frame your work in the context of helping these people. Whenever you start to feel disconnected from your personal mission, remind yourself of who you’re helping in the process.
3. Decide What You Want to Accomplish
Once you know what you truly value and who your work serves, you’re ready to set some goals. How can you take your work to the next level? In what ways could you help more? How could you make a more significant impact? This step is about innovation and big-picture thinking. What are the possibilities?
Create a brainstorm list of all your ideas. If you work with a team, consider doing this activity together. Afterward, prioritize the ideas and decide which you want to focus on first.
4. Create a Plan to Reach Your Goals
How are you going to make those ideas come to life? You’ll need a plan that breaks each goal into actionable steps. As you’re creating your plan, consider what roadblocks you’ll encounter as you work your plan, and create strategies for overcoming them. Next, assign realistic due dates to each of the steps. Without deadlines, our tendency is put non-urgent tasks on the back burner, so don’t skip this step!
5. Share Your Plan With Your Team or Your Manager
No matter what position you’re in, you’ll find that your goals will be easier to achieve if you share your plan with those around you. If you’re in leadership, share your vision with your team members. You may even inspire them to get in touch with their values and mission as well. If you have a manager who assigns work to you, it’s even more important to share your desire to integrate your mission with your work and your plan to make it happen.
5. Say “Yes” to the Things That Align With Your Mission
Most of us have the opportunity to make choices at work. We decide what assignments to pursue, what challenges to accept, what tasks to focus on. If you have the ability to choose, say “yes” to the things that match up with your mission, and pass on the things that don’t. The closer your day-to-day activities align with your purpose, the more fulfilled you’ll be. These projects don’t have to be part of your official duties. Maybe you can serve as a mentor or create a program that connects people in some way. Perhaps you can lead a diversity initiative. Maybe you motivate your team involved in a Habitat for Humanity project or host a drive for a local nonprofit.
If you’re using this framework to connect your personal mission to your day-to-day work, you’ll know you’re living your best life, filling each day with meaning. It will be easier to get back on track when you’re having a rough day or when you lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Ultimately, you’ll not only feel better, you’ll also create better work.
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