If you ask six people the meaning of career success, you will probably get six different answers. One dictionary defines success as “the satisfactory accomplishment of a goal sought for.”
To be successful, you must achieve the goal and be satisfied with the outcome. With this definition, one wonders if “success” that does not include personal satisfaction — a sense of well-being — is really true success at all.
As a career coach, I assist my clients on their journey to finding their authentic vocation. The word authentic, as used here, means real or aligned with one’s essential self; vocation denotes a calling, a profession to which one is particularly suited for, or a life’s work. In other words, work that meets this standard comes from your authentic self and it allows you to be who you truly are while doing what you most love and feel passionate about.
Some people refer to this work as following one’s bliss. Mid-career adults often seek a deep sense of fulfillment, which only comes when they unite who they are with what they do. When you find your authentic vocation, you find both career success and satisfaction.
Three principles form the foundation for finding one’s authentic vocation:
1. Every person has a central life purpose that, if realized through his or her work, will provide optimum work fulfillment.
2. We can all find or create work that expresses our life purpose, utilizes our skills, meets a need in the world and is financially viable.
3. To achieve this ideal, each person’s purpose — values, motivators, experience, job goals and work environment — must be considered then filtered through a business reality.
You may be wondering about how to identify you life purpose. Here are some clues for finding your path.
1. What do you love to do, whether in your spare time or at work?
2. What type of work are you willing to do for free?
3. What do you do really well? Do you possess any natural gifts or talents?
4. What would you say are your 10 greatest successes to date?
5. Are there some issues or perceived problems that have occurred over and over again?
6. Do you daydream? What do you daydream about?
7. What do you want people to say about you?
8. Do you feel passionate about a particular cause (social injustice, welfare of others, etc.)?
9. What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
Your answers to these questions may position you to clearly identify your life purpose and passions. Passions are usually prominent in a person’s personal assessment of what he or she enjoys doing.
Your answers will also reveal what you do not enjoy. Typically, when we expend a lot of energy and time doing activities that we do not like, it feels like work. When we live our passion or follow our bliss, we are energized and time passes quickly.
At this point in the coaching process, I instruct my clients to write a life purpose statement. A life purpose statement declares the central theme of one’s life, and it has two parts: the essence, which is fairly unchanged over one’s life; and the expression, which changes as our lives change.
Examples of life purpose statements are:
• To promote the economic and educational advancement of women through….
• To eliminate paper waste in corporate America through….
• To help people discover their purpose and express their calling through…
As we grow, we may alter how we state the essence portion, but the underlying theme is like a thread that runs throughout our lives. Finding and living one’s life purpose is freeing and joyful.
However, there is one common obstacle to discovering one’s life purpose that many people struggle with: pressure to just make a living.
Pressures from an unexpected layoff may require a temporary hold on your life purpose exploration. Moonlighting or having a side gig may allow you to test a new line of work that you find enjoyable while working a “day” job. Most people will not be fulfilled and satisfied in their work until it becomes an expression of their life purpose. Take the plunge and live on purpose.
Tammy McIntyre is owner of McIntyre Employment Service, an agency providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.