Humans seem to have an innate desire to know why we are here. We search for meaning almost as naturally as we breathe. Sense of purpose at work, specifically, is more important than ever, as burnout is sharply on the rise. In fact, scientists have proven that sense of purpose is a key feature of resiliency.
People connected to a purpose have improved immune function, enhanced cognitive abilities, resistance to depression, and improved responses to distress or negativity. There are many factors contributing to burnout, but one of them may be that so many people find themselves in jobs that meet practical needs (money, insurance, retirement plan) while disconnecting them from their purpose.
Completely correcting this sort of purpose-disconnection is not easy or fast, but it is possible to improve the situation over time. One of the things to ponder if you’re feeling your job is out of alignment with your purpose is whether your purpose definitely has to do with how you make money. I am an astrologer, as well as a physician, and from years of astrology research I’ve come to realize that many people’s deeper spiritual purpose is different from their career.
Purpose, in this sense, can relate to relationships, parenting, exploring the world, engaging with community, overcoming adversity, healing certain wounds, self-development, etc. Interestingly, people’s lives usually do orient in the direction of their true spiritual purpose, often without any external intervention. The skills we learn in the pursuit of our purpose, even if it’s more personal or family-centric, can often be translated into a way to make money. Many people have a purpose that’s a mosaic (bit of this and that).
Burnout and Purpose
If you have previously experienced burnout or think you are there now, a good first step on the road to recovery is to ponder how you wound up in that situation. Are your hours too long? Is the work unfulfilling? Are performance expectations unrealistic? Were you misled about the hours or type of work when you applied? Did you possibly mislead yourself a little in order to accept a job that wasn’t an ideal fit? Burnout usually involves a bit of all these things! It’s especially common in corporate environments where employees have minimal control over business decisions and working conditions.
It’s still useful to acknowledge our role in the situation, however. Blaming others generally keeps us in frustration and out of alignment with our hearts. Once you understand how you became unhappy in your work, the next step (step two) is to examine what you actually like about your position. What aspects of the job are a little bit fun, make the day go faster, bring a smile, or allow you to feel a small sense of pleasure or accomplishment? What aspects of your work are most natural? Is any part of the job a definite YES? Note all of this in a journal.
If you are experiencing burnout, it is possible that your soul is revolting to a situation that no longer meets its needs and is threatening to cost too much time and energy. The job may have been okay for a little while, but perhaps you have become depleted or significant time has passed. Your soul now may want you to shift while you still have energy to invest in more aligned work. Thus, if you are experiencing burnout, do listen. It really could be a cry for help from your soul.
Finding Your YES!
In order to align your current or future job with your purpose, you have to know and understand your body’s YES! Your YES is how your body lights up when it’s doing something exciting. Your YES generates an opening, and the space created contains attraction, curiosity, and enthusiasm. At a subtle level there is resonance—the experience of harmony, alignment, and flow.
When your YES becomes fully conscious there is distinct pleasure and a desire for more. When you are fully giving your gifts, these signs are present. You should actually feel uplifted and energized after a moment of soul-work, rather than depleted. This energetic buzz serves a purpose: it makes you want to recreate the experience. Doing so will help you develop understanding.
It's natural for full strength YESES to be kind of rare. If they were common then everyone would be more stoked on life + work, and the incidence of depression and anxiety would be lower. What’s more usual is for people to feel a bit of resonance or a small hint of a YES now and then. This is still important! What we focus on increases, so if you can find even the slightest hint of a YES, follow it! Do more of it. See if the YES grows.
Your YES at Work
For people who have a primarily professional destiny or purpose, YESES will come most often at work. Helping someone, solving a problem, designing something, managing something, giving a lecture, etc. will give someone who is meant to be doing that thing an electric charge. Their inner bell will be rung. In some cases, the heart gets activated. In a full YES, all of the chakras are opened and aligned. That’s why there’s so much energy flowing. We are connected to Source when we are living our purpose. This huge flow of energy is meant to fuel our actions and encourage us to do more of the thing that turns on the juice!
If you suspect your primary purpose may be outside the office, you still may be able to find subtle resonances or smaller yeses at work. That’s what I was referencing in “step two” above. Look for little pleasures or joys you do find in your career. Identify what comes easily, what parts of your performance people praise. These things = small yeses! Follow them, focus on them, and educate yourself in those areas. Expand small yeses into opportunities to do more of the things that created them.
The Negotiating Stage
Once you can identify YESES, you have reached step three: negotiation. You’re going to need to discuss your new insights with your employer, supervisor, or business partners (or ponder internally, if self-employed). This is where preparatory journaling helps. Before you approach a supervisor spend time realistically thinking about what you could ADD into your work to help it trigger a few more YESES. Think about what sort of tasks ideally would be reduced. The employer needs a job done, so there may only be a certain amount of flexibility, but in many situations, there is the possibility of being at least a little creative.
Employers want happy employees. So, a key ingredient in this step is compromise. Be prepared to try to meet the employer’s essential needs, while weaving in a few aspects that feel more joyful. This could mean taking on more of a certain kind of project or client. It may mean offering to teach a class, presenting an idea for something new, or proposing a position switch (within company) to a job that engages more of your YES.
The bottom line is to respectfully make your preferences known. If you don’t give your employer an opportunity to work with you, it’s going to be hard to transform a less fulfilling situation. Initially, you may have to work harder or longer to cover your basic work AND implement the new ideas. If you can think of a way to make your YESES make money for your company or improve efficiency, you may be able to gradually spend more time with what you love and less time with the “functional” parts of your position. In some cases, old duties can be reassigned or someone new can be hired who might be better suited to those tasks.
In many cases, a perfect YES-in-all-ways is not possible. This is true, in general, about life. You may be a super fortunate soul who does find perfection (though this is probably more about a positive mindset), but most people will want to be excited about small steps. Little joys and moments of alignment mean a lot if you previously had monotony and disconnection. As you become clear about your obvious professional strengths, you can begin to prepare to change jobs, if needed. If you are entrepreneurial, you may start dreaming up a business that prominently features your ever-evolving full YES.
Learning to Shine
One of the biggest secrets I’ve learned, personally, about having a fulfilling career is to put as much of yourself into your work as possible. Be authentic. Express individuality within your career. Of course, in some roles there is limit to how much you can share and still maintain professionalism. In these cases, you have to decide where that line is for your situation. The point (and step four) is to be as truly YOURSELF as you can be within the constraints of your role. Many people fit into “the box” too easily and firmly, more than is necessary. There is room for a little originality and more of YOU in almost every role.
Psychologists have proven that work satisfaction is significantly higher when employees are allowed to decorate their own workspaces (creating a personality “investment” in their offices). Additionally, lack of input in company decisions lowers morale and increases stress. It naturally follows that the more “you” you can bring to your role, the more empowered you will feel.
The final step in evolving your career to align with your purpose is to look for role models and mentors who have happy, YES-filled careers. Ideally, these people are within your desired industry or niche, but you can also learn a lot from inspired, successful, and fulfilled people in any field. These people walk (or walked) a relatively rare path. Read their words, hear them speak, observe their actions, and try to apply their wisdom and practices to your situation.
It takes effort to align your career with your purpose, but the fulfillment that results from days filled with YESES will be an endless reminder that you used your energy well.
There is a light within you that wants to be free. Close your eyes and listen if you want to see.