I met Oleg a few years back while I was working as an FBI undercover agent. Oleg was a Russian spy sent to the U.S. to steal proprietary economic intelligence. My job was to find the answer to two questions: 1) what specific technology was he trying to steal, and 2) would he be amenable to working with the FBI as a double agent?
I wasn’t sure how to go about pursuing these questions at first, but Oleg provided one of the answers soon after I met him.
I made arrangements to attend a seminar that I knew he would be attending. The seat next to Oleg was empty, so I wasted no time in gently shoving a gentleman out of the way so I could get there before anyone else.
As Oleg and I chatted, one thing became obvious: he was bored with his job. It wasn’t that Oleg couldn’t talk about certain aspects of his overt job (not the spy part), it was that he didn’t want to talk about them. He couldn’t drum up enough enthusiasm about it to even keep up a good conversation. His lack of engagement in what he was doing was a clue that he was not doing something he felt passionate about.
Turns out Oleg isn’t the only one who is dissatisfied with his career.
A recent Harvard Business School survey indicates that we have a 23-year low in job satisfaction and 84% of Americans say they want a new job.
Most of us are passive spectators in our life. We plan careers, retirement nest eggs, and vacations, but we do not plan our life.
Mentally tough people live their life with purpose and meaning. They are an active participant in where their life is going.
Here is the real clincher—having a sense of purpose may add years to your life. Recent research has concluded that purposefulness is a strong predictor of longevity. In the past, behavioral scientists have understood that having a positive outlook and strong relationships contributed to living a longer and healthier life.
Finding a direction for life and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you live longer. Without goals to anchor us, we find ourselves adrift in life. We may think we know what our goals are, but if we aren’t living our life around them, then we’re not living our life on purpose.
Over 80% of Americans do not have goals; 16% say they do have goals but don’t write them down. Less than 4% actually write them down.
Research has shown that people who regularly write down their goals not only life longer and healthier lives, they also earn as much as nine times more than their counterparts who do not write down goals.
Start living a longer and healthier life by thinking about your own experiences and the things that are important to you.
Here are some simple ways to dig down and find your purpose:
1. WHAT ACTIVITIES AND SITUATIONS FROM YOUR PAST HAVE LED TO TRUE SATISFACTION?
- Start a log.
- Jot down activities, people, circumstances, and experiences from your day.
- Notice when and how your attitude changes.
- Look for patterns.
2. WHAT YOU ARE YOU ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT?
- Make a list of what you’d do if money weren’t an issue.
- Remember what brought you joy as a child.
- Enjoy those memories for a few moments.
- Reflect on what brings a smile to your face today.
3. WHAT IS DRIVING YOUR RESTLESSNESS?
- Pinpoint your attitudes and habits of behavior.
- Acknowledge your fears.
- Accept your strengths.
- Identify your desires.
As the psalmist says, “Search your own heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life.”
What is standing in your way of finding your purpose? How can being authentic help you be a better leader?
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