Finding Purpose and Happiness at Work

Want to be Happy at Work? Here’s How to Find Purpose

Have you ever caught yourself thinking, “I’d be happy at work if only I got a promotion/made more money/did something I’m more passionate about”?

Or maybe you read stories about people who are getting paid to pursue their dreams and think, “Why can’t that be me?”

Well, if it’s any consolation, you’re certainly not alone. Total career happiness is hard to come by.

So what gives? Are some of us just doomed to be unhappy at work forever?

As a career coach and coach at SoFi, I hear this question pretty frequently from our members—many of whom have started to build seemingly successful careers but fear they may be on the wrong path to happiness. They feel stuck, often have a hard time getting motivated every morning. And they want to know if making a change will make a difference.

In order to answer these questions, it’s important to peel back a few layers and make sure you’re clear on who you are and how you want to live your life. We call this foundation alignment, and if you get it right, the rest of the answers tend to fall in place.

What is alignment, and how do I achieve it?

In order to understand how alignment works, it helps to understand what truly makes people happy. In her book The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky defines happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”

In a nutshell, if you’re not sure what ‘good, meaningful, and worthwhile’ means to you, you may be chasing down the wrong things in your career.

That’s where alignment comes in. Essentially, it’s when you learn to understand yourself better so that your career choices reflect who you are, what you’re good at, and what’s important to you. To achieve alignment, you must first identify three things:

Your values and motivators.
What’s most important to you about the ways you live and work? What gets you out of bed in the morning? For example, one of my big values is responsibility—the fact that I contribute to my household and put food on the table for my family. It gives me a huge sense of purpose.

Your personality and strengths.  
What are you good at? What are your habits and tendencies? I love being a part of a community, and yet I’ve always been good at working with people one-on-one. My role at SoFi allows me to do both.  

Your interests.  
What are you passionate about? What do you feel pulled toward? For me, helping people has always been a key interest—and again, I get to do that every day in my current job.

These questions may seem a little obvious, but the truth is, most of us don’t think about this stuff as often as we should. For one thing, the answers may change over time, so it’s important to do a self-check on a regular basis. Also, it’s crucial to get outside your own head, for example using free tools like the Life Values Inventory, 16Personalities and TalenToday. If possible, work with a coach. An outside perspective may help you uncover things you couldn’t see on your own.

The difference between finding purpose and “Your Purpose”

“Your Purpose” is what you might call your mission in life. It’s the thing that truly drives you. It’s the mark you want to leave, connecting your passion and your talents. It may be what you do for a living—but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, many people who try to make their purpose their career end up losing their passion for the work. For example, an artist may strive to connect with others in his or her own creative way—not necessarily in the way of their employer.

Finding purpose in your work, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily mean pursuing your calling. It should, however, help you achieve your larger life and career goals. Meaning even if you’re not passionate about the field your job is in—the job itself should honor your values, put your strengths to work, and keep you interested and challenged. Hopefully, it can provide you with the income and the flexibility to pursue “Your Purpose” outside of work.

At the end of the day, it’s about uncovering your options and making choices that help you feel life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.

Want more? Check out SoFi’s career resource center for pro tips and guides.

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2 thoughts on “Want to be Happy at Work? Here’s How to Find Purpose

  1. Thank you for the article! It was very well written, and had many nuggets of worthwhile information. I loved the alignment concept, and the intersection of values, interests/skills, and external needs/context.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Great article! I shared it with my children who are recent graduates. These are things they should consider as they enter the job market.

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