Monday, November 30, 2015

Finding purpose in work

Last Wednesday I had the chance of listening to Prof. Miguel Pina e Cunha in a key-note speach dedicated to the theme "What is your purpose?". Drawing from the Harvard Business Review article "From purpose to impact" (May 2014, by Nick Craig & Scott Snook) and from the story of the man that serves at the toll at Ponte 25 de Abril in Lisbon, this talk was about self-awareness and "big questions in life" that might move people towards finding their purpose ... not goals... not mission... purpose...
Money alone isn’t enough to push us to do our best - says Daniel Pink - author and expert on the nature of work, listing meaning and purpose as core motivators, alongside autonomy and mastery.

So, how to find purpose through work?
Research from late 90's  (Amy Wrzesniewski et. al) presented evidences suggesting that most people see their work as either a Job (focus on financial rewards and necessity), a Career (focus on advancement), or a Calling (focus on enjoyment of fulfilling, useful work).

In the context of leadership, this process often results in more clarity about each leader's purpose, values, and motivations, and the role these play when that person is leading others. In this line, purpose is a choice and people have purpose in every job and profession; it seems to have more to do with attitude and approach than about the work itself ... In fact, we all can remember about people who work (for example) in medicine and don’t get much purpose from it as well as remember about people in the so called “dirty jobs” that, in turn, get tremendous purpose from what they do. 

Very often people get more purpose and enjoyment out of things when doing something that helps them master what they do, and, at the same time, feel like they are doing something that has an impact. Purpose seems then something that comes much more "along the journey", resulting from "trying and doing", in a process that allows one person to become aware of what matters for he / she, how does he/she learns, how does he/she wants to be challenged and how he/she wants to help other people; a gradual process that brings light to understanding what are the things which serves us well (eg, the ones we accept and commit to) and which ones do not (eg, the ones we need to commit to change).

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