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Is it acceptable to spend so much time of life disillusioned?

According to HR magazine over 60% of employees are unhappy in their work and job satisfaction in Britain is at an all time low and falling (CIPD).

Have you ever heard people respond to the question “do you enjoy your work?” with “it’s a job”. Is it acceptable to spend so much of life disillusioned? How did we lose our expectations of true fulfillment and Purpose and start thinking ‘it’s ok to be grey’.

You're going to spend 41-50% of your life at work, 29% asleep and the remaining 20-30% awake not at work. It’s the lion-share of your existence and your life is important.

So how do we find satisfaction at work?

Essentially, you either find love in your work or you put love in your work - usually it's a bit of both.

‘Purposeful companies have 9% of the human resources costs of non-purposeful companies’ (Neil Croft's, Purposeful Business)

Why would this be so? Because people who feel a driving sense of Purpose give more of themselves, express more of themselves and thus experience more of life. Your Purpose comprises your gifts talents and abilities, your core values and the contribution you are most inspired to make. It's your best bit - the place within yourself that, if you were free, you would choose to live without hesitation and would joyfully spend the rest of your life exploring. It's the Meaning you hold for your existence. Where better to seek that out than in the 41-50% of life?

In Ancient Greece when a person died a single question was asked about them, the answer to which revealed volumes about their life - 'did he or she live passionately?' Passion of course is different for everyone. For some it's dancing on the table with a rose between their teeth while for others it's reading a wonderful book in a squashy armchair on a Sunday afternoon. Passion is the act of investing oneself so deeply into something that the rest of the world disappears and all we long for is to dive deeper into our exuberance.

Purpose is at the heart of passion. It is not a duty but a joy. To live Purposefully is to live passionately and to seek to create a beneficial impact on the way - to give through one's passion.

What are you passionate about? How could you live that more in your work? If there were three things you could do today which would make you feel more passionate and purposeful what would they be… Which one are you going to do first?

Most of the people I have met who feel less than 8/10 passionate and Purposeful about their work give the following reasons:

  • Circumstances - ‘I had to get a job and this came up’

  • Procrastination - ‘I’m only doing this until…’ Some years ago I was preparing to deliver an innovation seminar for a major insurance company and, one by one, every one of the attendees came up to me for ‘a quiet word’. They each said to me in their own words “I’m not really an insurance guy, I’m really a musician, comedian, writer, etc. I’m only doing this until my other career gets off the ground

  • Expectations - 'it's all I could do’. This is the most endemic of the three. People whose passions and Purpose were not touched at school often default into a mindset of ‘what can I do?’ as opposed to ‘what do I really want to do?’ Unconsciously therefore, they make all their future career choices based on this mindset.

When I ask people 'what would bring them fulfillment at work? ' many of them say:

  • If my boss acknowledged me more.

  • If I earned more money.

  • If I worked in a nicer environment.

  • If I had longer holidays.


There is no doubt that these things do make life easier and more pleasurable however, they don't really get to the essence of what makes us tick. We need to live what is most important to us and to give in ways which bring out our best. If we don't know what our Purpose, is, we make compromised choices and become jaded until that starts to feels normal…

People also say 'well... it would be nice to just drop everything but I need the money. I have obligations'. True. So, do you have to break everything and find a new job to live your Purpose?

No absolutely not. Small incremental changes add up to big, radical changes but in an extremely gentle way. If you set sail to cross the Atlantic and alter your course by 1 degree, after three hours sailing your course has not changed much. After three weeks however, it is the difference between arriving in New York or Barbados. Little changes add up to a lot. What if we simply changed the way we are at work by 1 degree - applying our Purpose and sprinkling our passions in new and unexpected ways? Would that improve life? Would it make us better at what we do? Would we enjoy it more?

Here is an example:

I worked with a man who had a job in the City of London. Whilst he was happy with the pay, he found the job repetitive and stressful. His Purpose spoke of travel and adventure so we set him ‘monthly exploration plans’. He started off walking to work. It took him over an hour. He had to leave earlier in the morning but he could walk by a river and along the canals. He saw a completely different side of London and the Purposeful part of himself was nourished day in day out. His outlook changed and as a result his choices did too.

Small changes become big.

Of course you can also make the BIG changes too and that's exciting. Try something... take a piece of paper and entitle it 'if I had 20 lifetimes…’. Underneath write down all the different jobs you would love to do in these lifetimes. You can put down 'rockstar' and you could write 'dolphin trainer’. Nothing is off limits but you must love all your answers and insist on writing at least 20 jobs down no matter how outlandish. When you have finished, ask yourself 'am I in my current job because a) it is convenient and the obvious thing to do based on my past? or b) Am I dong something that truly excites and ignites me?' If it's the latter, that's fantastic, tell 10 people how you did it.

If it's the former then there are plenty of amazing choices you can make to bring your Purpose and reality together. You can look at the qualities in all the jobs on your above list and then start blending them together to create your perfect role.

60% of the jobs that exist today did not exist 40 years ago. 60%. There is always a way to live your Purpose through your work. If you can’t find the perfect job, focus on the experience and the activities and… make it up.

What if you want to live your Purpose but you’re in a job which may be a 5 out of 10 but gives you the money, stability and structure that you need at the moment?

There are so many ways to live your Purpose, in work, out of work, on the tube etc. Franz Kafka worked his days as a clerk for an insurance company. For a man of his extraordinary imagination this must have been deeply unfulfilling. But did it stop him living his Purpose? In the evenings he wrote his extraordinary works which have influenced millions the world over.

I once did a project with Transport for London and met a fantastic woman. She was about 4’7”, had three teeth and the thickest cockney accent I have ever heard. She worked in a tube station and, in the hierarchy of TFL, was fairly low down. However, she is and was an amazing communicator. Whenever any TFL worker within her district had a problem and needed someone to speak to management on their behalf, they called upon her and she would speak for them. It was not an official role by any means but her interventions became an accepted part of the life of those working in the underground. She is living her values, exploring her gifts and making a contribution that changes her life and the lives of others. She is living the best of herself - her Purpose every day regardless of whether or not it is in her job description.

The truth is that most of our satisfaction in life comes from how much we give of ourselves. By that I don't mean being in sacrifice... giving, giving, giving and getting nothing back. I mean lusciously jumping into a possibility, project or job and discovering through exploration and curiosity how to make it work, improve it and make it something of significance.

You can live Purposefully everyday AND you can find avenues and jobs which help you explore it. You can do either or both. But you have to know what it is to live it. You just have to take the time (about an hour and a half), and be able to ask yourself the questions (7 in total) that reveal your truths and help you articulate them. If not by answering the 7 questions, how?

“What will you do with your one wild and precious life” Mary Oliver.

Richard JACOBS is the C.E.O of YES, a leading Culture Change Consultancy specialised in mindset and behavioural change that designs and implements large scale transformation programs. Richard has been designing training, change programmes and media for 25 years. He has personally trained over 300,000 people, has won numerous awards and is a pioneer in his field integrating interactive theatre, improvisation, graphic novel storytelling and dynamic exercises into his programmes. He is a sought after speaker and the author of the groundbreaking books: "What's your Purpose?" , “The 7 Questions to find your Purpose” and the forthcoming "Rides of Passage".


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