I ran across a letter from a friend from many years ago recently. The letter was written when we were both about 24.
“You sound so successful just like I figured. IBM, homeowner, master’s degree, Jeep – what’s this about the girl? Are you still with IBM? What is this business venture you mentioned?
I’ll tell you Tim it’s not often one hears something that one remembers and thinks to themselves again and again, but I often remember and picture of you sitting at the kitchen table in the house on East St. – and saying how you just couldn’t figure out how so many people did so little, watch TV, wasted their time when for you, there were more things to do than you could ever have time for! Do you remember? I remember. The attitude of people like you is amazing to people like me. What drives you? Motivates you? What makes something important to you? Why work so hard in the end, what is truly meaningful?
I was always a hard worker and ambitious obviously I hit a snag. The meaning and purpose of things got lost – I couldn’t find the answer to the questions of what was important to me. I don’t mean to be heavy but I was so struck by your attitude in our short acquaintance. It’s the strongest thing I remember about you and so in my mental struggles, I bring it up.
I’m working part-time now while I do “career planning” or I’m supposed to be away. Actually, I’m having a lot of fun but I’m not building much of a future and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go.”
My friend shared her struggles and asked some deep questions for which now, many years later, I’d like to invite you to pause to explore along with me:
– What drives you?
– What motivates you?
– What makes something important to you?
– Why do you strive?
– In the end, what is truly meaningful?
The funny thing is that my aspirations in my 20’s—a Jeep, corporate career, etc, are very different than my aspirations now (though I do really like the new Jeeps!). But it’s essential that we pause and examine our inner drive, no matter what it is that drives us. Only then can we see if our output, which is too often simply busy-work, is moving us in the direction we really want to go.
And if you find yourself in the situation of not knowing what is important to you, like my friend so many years ago, find people who have thought about and have answers to these questions. Their example and attitude will rub off on you. Who knows, you might start thinking in new and interesting ways that challenge your current situation.
I believe there are a lot people in the workplace that are struggling with purpose now just as my friend was struggling with purpose back then. Asking these questions and contemplating their application in your life is a great place to start.