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How to Discover Your Purpose and Align it With Your Career

Published:Wednesday | December 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Ask most people what is their greatest career concern and they're likely to respond in unison: money. It seems we just can't earn enough, doesn't it?

A deeper probe into what keeps many people up at nights, however, is likely to reveal a concern beyond money. In his book, Man's Search for Meaning, Dr Viktor Frankl identifies this deeper concern as 'meaning'.

Lawyer-turned-teacher John Clark, in his brilliant book The Money is the Gravy, calls this deeper problem 'career angst'.

People suffering from this gnawing inner dissatisfaction with their work and life "are often extraordinary individuals who are engaged (usually very 'successfully') in work they do not value and that uses only a fraction of their talents," Clark asserts.

Such lack of value and misalignment with their true gifts and passions make them "feel empty and insecure, though their work achievements may be judged glittering by others", says Clark.

Though often experienced by people who have attained some level of career success, this phenomenon is by no means limited to them. Young university graduates, talented artists, self-employed persons and experienced professionals struggling to find a satisfying job also feel this angst.

Unless you've felt this deep anxiety, ennui and depression, it can be hard to identify with those who have. For many, it's nothing short of an existential crisis - they are desperate to discover some purpose and meaning in their work and life.

To discover a purpose around which to build your career, here are three steps you may find helpful.

'Do what you love' is one of the most oft-repeated cliches in career counselling. It's almost never followed, however, since most people ridicule the idea of making money pursuing their passion. The evidence, from the most successful people in the world, however, is that it is eminently possible.

Your passion is a clue to your unique purpose. Entertainer and author of the new book, Act Like a Success, Think Like a Success, Steve Harvey says, "The key to success is to make the most of something you already have; that's your gift. All of us are born with it. It's the thing that we do best with the least amount of effort." What's that for you?

Usain Bolt always had raw athletic talent. However, talent is never enough. You need the right training and mentorship to hone your talent. Your goal is to be extraordinary at what you do. It's to present the best of your gift to the world. Enrol in school or get a coach.

Find or create a product or service solution to help people, using your talent. Look around for people with problems, with pressing needs. They are everywhere - your church, community, workplace and home.

To make money and build a career around your gift, you'll need to solve a problem that many people have - your market - for which they will pay you to provide a solution. However, focus on giving them excellent service first, not on making money.

n Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. He is the author of 'From Problems to Power' and co-author of 'Profile of Excellence'.