Written by: Erica Bowen, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
At the back end of 2020, I left my stable, well-paid career as a full professor of psychology and director of research and knowledge exchange – a senior management role. I had been an academic for 20 years, promoted quickly, achieved considerable success, but in 2019, after my most recent promotion, I realized that something was missing. I felt hollow despite all the trappings of success; two months in and I knew I had to do something different.
I had trained in forensic psychology. I had worked in prison and family court contexts and felt torn between being a practitioner and a researcher for much of my career, but I also felt there was a problem with the lens through which human behaviour was viewed.
Explicitly, at that time, much of psychology viewed people as straw figures made up of a range of ‘problems’ and ‘deficits’ that need to be solved or trained. It is now changing, thankfully, but it wasn’t until I attended training in Solution Focused Brief Therapy that this view was challenged and destroyed. I had found a way of working that enabled me to embrace a more optimistic yet pragmatic perspective. A perspective that requires you to 100% believes in the potential that people have to change their lives. The penny dropped.
Training as a coaching psychologist enabled me to maintain a focus on supporting people to achieve their goals, as well as creating environments in which people can thrive. In the middle of last year, I realised that supporting people to create hope in their lives is my purpose. I do this by connecting them to their purpose, creating a vision of their desired future, setting goals, providing accountability, and challenging unhelpful beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and assumptions, enabling them to embrace the courage to put themselves first.
Being purpose-driven to me is the sense that you are doing ‘your work’; the work you are meant to do. Purpose-led is different. I was purpose-led as an academic, led by an agenda external to myself – preventing domestic abuse. There are many challenges to being purpose-led, one being that the ‘cause’ is often so large that it is difficult to see that you are having any impact whatsoever, and yet that drives you on until you become exhausted by it. The risk of emotional burnout is high.
When you are working from a position of purpose, it feels right; there is no questioning, there is a sense of inner calm, a sense of intentionality that was not there before, a sense of excitement. I believe that you can be purpose-driven and not have to change careers, as living from a purpose-driven perspective influences how you show up in all areas of your life – it is a way of ‘being’ rather than a way of ‘doing’. Once you have connected to your purpose, you can then decide whether you need to ‘do’ something different.
So, how can you start to uncover your purpose
Take time to see if there are common elements to key experiences or roles that you have had that made you feel ‘in the zone’, inflow, and which showed you at your best. Really consider which were the elements that you appreciated most from those experiences, and why.
Create a list of the common themes that arise from your answers to question
Reduce this list into broader categories – do a small number of these initial categories link to a bigger idea?
Review each category – which speaks to you most? What is it about this category that is so meaningful to you?
If you were applying the lessons from this category to all areas of your life, how would you be showing up differently?
If the answer to the final question fills you with excitement, then you are likely closer to understanding your purpose.
Article published in Brainz Magazine