A sense of purpose at work is something that can often be overlooked, but it’s one of the most important factors that influence your happiness and sense of fulfillment in your job. No matter the level in the organization, whether in leadership or aspiring to be, when people feel like they have a sense of purpose in their jobs, they are more likely to be motivated, truly engaged, and committed to their work.

But what is it about purpose that makes it so important, and how can we find it in our own careers?

First of all, it’s important to understand that purpose is not the same thing as the tasks that make up our roles. While our job duties and responsibilities are certainly an important part of our work, they are different from our purpose. Purpose is about the bigger picture – it’s about how our work fits into the larger scheme of things and how it contributes to something greater than ourselves.

For example, a realtor may see her purpose as helping people find a home (not to be confused with a house), allowing her clients to create a memorable, safe and happy life. A financial advisor may see their purpose as helping their clients save and live their dreams, now and in retirement. And for someone in leadership, it may be to put others on their career path or help their teams to develop to their full potential.

So how do we find our purpose at work? That’s where things can get a bit wonky. The word purpose is often taken to mean a BIG, all-encompassing direction and often to the exclusion of everything else.

That’s not it at all. I remember when I started learning about NLP (neurolinguistic programming) and Huna. Each is a complementary learning and development modality but with different characteristics. NLP, for me, is more about thinking and the brain producing desired outcomes. Huna is more spiritual and about “being” and connecting to your higher self to achieve desired outcomes. Both relate strongly to purpose. I struggled to “figure out” and define my purpose early in my learning because I was over-complicating it. I don’t want that for you, so here are some suggestions for finding your purpose.

Start by thinking about what matters most to you and what you are most passionate about.

Are you looking to make a difference in the world? Do you want to help others? What gives you energy? What do you enjoy? What are you good at? Although simple questions, this is where you start mining the gold.

My purpose is to help women and emerging leaders create more success in their work, with less sacrifice to their lives and what is truly important to them. That’s it. It’s the over-arching theme, not the “how” you do it.

Once you have a clear idea of your purpose, you can look for ways to align your work with that purpose.

This might mean finding a job that aligns with your values and goals or finding ways to infuse your current position with a greater sense of your purpose.

For example, if your purpose is to help others, you might volunteer your time outside of work to organizations that align with that goal. Or, if your purpose is to contribute to your company’s success in a significant way, you might look for opportunities to take on additional responsibilities or projects that will help you achieve that goal.

Be open to what shows up when you start moving toward purpose.

When you start identifying your purpose and putting action toward living it, it’s like something you see that can’t be unseen. It plants a seed in your mind and aligns your focus to bring you more opportunities to move in that direction. Having a purpose in your work isn’t a one-and-done; it’s a journey to always uncover more.

Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think becoming a keynote speaker was part of my path. I’m an introvert, for goodness sake! But speaking at conferences is a much bigger way to help other people think differently about themselves, their potential, and how to achieve it. It’s one of the vehicles through which my purpose is expressed.

Regardless of your purpose, it’s important to remember that it can be a powerful driving force in your work. It allows you to focus on what is most important to you and is daily encouragement to show up as your highest and best self. Because, after all, that’s what you were put on this planet for.

Until next time, here’s wishing you all the Clarity (and purpose) you deserve!