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Finding Purpose in Your Career with the 3E Method of Change

Finding Purpose in Your Career with the 3E Method of Change

In Steve Jobs’s commencement speech at Stanford University, he said:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

Purpose can feel like that sometimes. We can look back at our lives and see where we’ve come, but we may not have the same confidence that we’re going where we’d like to when we turn around and look ahead. We get lost in the minutiae of the day or give up on that whole “purpose” thing because it may seem too lofty.

The thing is that we can find meaning in anything. Individuals who undergo trauma, for example, are more likely to recover and experience real happiness and joy again if they focus on finding meaning in what happened.

Your career or job doesn’t have to be your “passion.” It can instead support your purpose or be just one step on the road to getting there. Bob Ross referred to these as “happy accidents.”

You can find purpose at any job. Using my 3E Method of Change, these three easy steps can be the foundation to lifelong change.

1) Excavate your attic.

You can’t move forward until you look back. -Cormel West

There is power in knowing yourself and sharing it with others. Climb up into the deep attic of your mind. Find that box of past joys, hobbies, dreams. Blow off the dust. Dig in. Remind yourself what joy looks like for you.

When did you last laugh till your side hurt? What small things have you always wanted to do but you put on the back burner for years? For me, that meant finally learning to make homemade pasta. It meant put back on my red pointe shoes and started to dance in my living room. It meant setting aside designated time every day to read, not just books for work, but pleasure.

Excavating your attic means allowing yourself the time to recall all the things you love about life, even if it has been a while since you made space for them. It means bringing yourself out of the rut of depression or discontent that brought you to this place of exploration and reminding yourself of small joys that bring on unforced smiles. When we find these small pleasures, we reframe our outlook on life and allow the wheels of change to turn more easily.

[Related: Emotional Anniversaries]

2) Eliminate your obligations.

How much of your time are you spending on obligations: societal, work, family, or community? And how many of those are truly serving you?

The second small step to change is to make a list of your obligations, then rate them. Put them on a scale from what serves you most to least. Get clear about which obligations bring you joy. Then begin a plan to step away from obligations that don’t serve you.

[Related: Spring Clean Your Life]

3) Embolden your resolve.

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. -Lewis Carroll.

This is the time to get really clear about what you want out of life. Every day. Every minute. Not just pie-in-the-sky dreams, although those are important, but also day-to-day.

For me, I took a look at my finances. What is the floor I could live on if I was eternally happy with my job? What are the aspects of my work that I love? What do I despise? How do I find a role that has more of the former and less of the later? What are my personal values; the ones I want to guide my everyday life with? How can I be the best version of myself every day?

Once you get clear about what you want, you can use that lens to direct every decision you make. Before any decision, big or small, I now ask:

Does this action get me closer to my goal or take me farther away?

Then be bold in your resolve to say "no" to anything that takes you farther away from the person you want to be. This resolve is, perhaps, the most challenging aspect of change. But once this mental question becomes a habit, you will wonder how you ever lived without it.

Using these three easy steps, we can all take stock of our own life choices and the legacy they want to leave. Let me assure you. It. Is. Possible. You can take these first steps to design your roadmap to meaning.

[Related: Why HR Needs to Know About This Triple Threat to Your Financial Security]

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Dr. Melanie Hicks is an executive coach and corporate consultant with more than two decades of experience working with education institutions, nonprofits, and small to mid-sized companies and executives in the areas of professional growth, career change, strategic planning, program evaluation, employee engagement, and corporate culture.


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