Rock climber clinging to a cliff.“This is what I was meant to do.”

Have you heard this impassioned declaration from friends or colleagues? When you meet people who are passionate and clear about their reason for being, their enthusiasm, confidence, and drive is tangible. Their passion is impossible to ignore.

Steven Spielberg, in a USAToday interview this week, said of his Shoah Foundation, “This is the most important work I can be doing.”

How do you see your work today? If you see work as mostly a series of meaningless efforts and interactions, it is unlikely that you will feel fulfilled over time – and may not feel focused each day. You might feel as if you are “going through the motions.”

How do you see your life today? You might be more intentional with integrating meaning in your personal life, engaging in meaningful contributions in your community regularly. You might volunteer at a soup kitchen, shelter, or community non-profit. You might engage in finding space for a neighborhood garden and rally others to ensure it comes to fruition.

Finding your reason for being is not about your happiness – it’s about creating meaning in your life and work.

In fact, a recent study by researchers from Florida State University, the University of Minnesota, and Stanford University, found that happiness is primarily about the “now,” being happy in the present. Meaningfulness primarily involves integrating the past, present, and future. Engaging in meaningful endeavors often requires unhappiness – experiences like one’s discontent with how things work or with the unfairness of treatment, policies, or practices.

Meaningfulness to us humans means we will tackle difficult issues that are important to us. We choose to tackle these issues so we can serve others. We may choose to address unfairness or inequality we see.

Our engagement in our reason for being will cost us time, energy, and funds. We make those sacrifices willingly because of our passionate belief in doing good and providing benefits to those around us. For example, a chef at a neighborhood restaurant left a corporate banquets position to create a warm, family environment with tasty, healthy fare that amazes customers. He said, “I took a 75% cut in pay and doubled the hours I spend at work, but I’m doing what I love – and customers love it, too.”

How do you discover your reason for being? For many of us, life experiences help us filter out things that are less important – less meaningful – to us. So, it takes time (often years). You can start by reflecting on what you’re truly passionate about from a “serving others” framework. What projects, activities, or opportunities engage you, inspire you, and lift you up?

Keep a list. Revisit your list every couple of weeks. Refine your list as you get clearer on those few, vitally meaningful things that provide insights into your passions.

Does your work have to be fully aligned to your reason for being? For many of us humans, our work activities are not fully aligned with our most meaningful drives. For a few, work fits perfectly into their passions.

What is important, I think, is to understand your reason for being – and engage in it often. You’ll make the world a better place when you do.

Add your comments, insights, or questions below. What is your reason for being? In what ways are you able to engage in your passions and service to others at work, with family, or in your communities?

Get your free copy of my ChangeThis manifesto, “What? Your Organization Doesn’t Have a Constitution?

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My next book,The Culture Engine, will be published by Wiley in September 2014. Pre-order your copy now! Subscribe to my weekly updates to get free resources, insights, and news on my book launch.

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S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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