Confucius, a Chinese philosopher once said “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Easier said than done, right?

In my own circle, I’m acutely aware of many who aren’t fulfilled at work. More people than ever are going into work with little passion or energy for what they’re doing, and the consequences of doing so can be huge. According to the Health and Safety Executive, 526,000 workers are suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety and the number of Americans quitting their jobs has surged to its highest level in 16 years. If you’re in a job that’s paying the bills but you’re living for the weekends, the chances are you’re stressed out, frustrated and doing significant damage to your health – and rest assured you’re not alone. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, only 33% of employees are engaged with 51% actively looking for a new job or watching for new job openings.

The differences between engaged and disengaged workers are clear. Engaged workers love what they do and rarely suffer Sunday night blues. They light up when speaking about their jobs, and they bring energy, passion and enthusiasm to their daily work. Most importantly, they perform significantly better than their non-engaged counterparts, particularly when they’re doing what they do best and feeling connected to a higher purpose.

Those who feel a personal connection to their work and able to cultivate both passion and a sense of purpose, really are on the path to greater life satisfaction. If you’re somebody who gets that empty feeling in the pit of your stomach every time Monday morning comes around, it may be time you find your holy grail and pivot into a new career that raises your energy and gets you excited. It’s easier to start contemplating a career transition when you know what you’re passionate about, but what if you’re not feeling fulfilled at work and you’re unclear as to what to do next? How do you even begin to find your purpose or calling? Below are 4 areas that can help you to uncover who you are, and what it is you want to do to lead a purpose driven life.

Identify your strengths and talents

Those who have found their purpose are most likely utilizing their strengths and talents and as a result are less stressed and living more fulfilling lives. According to Gallup “the more hours per day adults believe they use their strengths, the more likely they are to report having ample energy, feeling well-rested, being happy, smiling or laughing a lot, learning something interesting, and being treated with respect.”

Career coach Hallie Crawford says that “when you don’t utilize any of your strengths and talents, your career isn’t rewarding or fulfilling and it may not be the one for you.” You may feel frustrated and stressed. Perhaps you feel as though the work you’re doing is a constant challenge and uphill battle and this could simply be because you’re not utilizing the skills and talents that come naturally to you.

To identify your strengths and talents ask yourself the following questions;

What am I good at?

You can identify your strengths and talents using many online questionnaires that can help you to understand and hone in on your natural aptitudes. Strengthsfinder and VIA Institute on Character, are two such assessments that you can take online today.

What do I enjoy doing?

What are some of the activities you do that you’re drawn to, or that energize you? What activities bring you joy or spark your interest? Often the things that we’re drawn to can provide insights as to the things that we’re passionate about. Are you drawn to a particular genre of books, tv shows, sports? If you’re at a loss for inspiration, think back to the activities you were drawn to as a child since the things you enjoyed then can often be clues to dormant passions and talents that you can reignite in adulthood. Did you enjoy creative pursuits such as art or painting for example? Or were you a builder and enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together? Take some time to reflect on what it was that you cheerfully spent your time doing.

What do other people tell me that I’m good at?

Your colleagues and the people you spend the most time with are likely to be able share key insights as to what they think your strengths are. Ask them to share with you. One of my previous colleagues sent out a questionnaire to his network asking them to share with him what they thought his top 3 strengths were, and what career they thought would best align with his strengths and talents. The results highlighted some key themes and correlations that he was then able to reflect on. Other ideas could be to initiate a 360 review questionnaire, or spend some time to reflect on your previous performance reviews and career conversations. What feedback have your manager(s) shared with you about your strengths and the things you’re good at.

What am I doing when I’m engrossed in an activity?

You can determine when you’re utilizing your strengths and talents when you experience flow. Flow is when you’re “in the zone”, performing activities with focus, energy and enjoyment and where time passes you by. During these periods, the challenge of the activity typically matches up to your skill level and you’re in your groove! Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said “it is true that if one finds flow in work, and in relations with other people, one is well on the way toward improving the quality of life as a whole.”

In the next week make a note of all the times you experience flow. At the end of the week reflect back and review the activities you were doing. Are there any key themes? Were you writing, engaging with people, building something, designing, presenting, teaching?

Know your core values

Stew Friedman, author of Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life, believes that the key to leading a meaningful and less overwhelmed life, is to invest in leading a life in which you stay true to yourself, focusing simply on what truly matters to you.

Your core values are your internal compass and understanding them can provide clues and insights as to what your purpose in life should be. Not knowing them can negatively impact your happiness and job satisfaction and you’re more likely to be in roles that are unknowingly compromising your beliefs and what you stand for.

When you’re able to bring your best self to work in a role that’s in harmony with your beliefs, you’ll encounter more positive emotions, increased energy and you’ll be living your life more authentically.

Determining your core values can sometimes be hard to articulate since we’re often living them subconsciously, however, bringing them into the forefront of your mind can be powerful, enabling you to shift direction and leading you towards a more meaningful path. Try this exercise to determine your core values here.

Listen to your intuition

Ok, so this may sound a little hocus pocus but the chances are you already know what your purpose or calling in life is. We all have a gut instinct – an inkling or an inner voice, that’s faintly whispering to us and steering us in the right direction. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, intuition is “an ability to understand or know something without needing to think about it or use reason to discover it, or a feeling that shows this ability.”

Try to recall a moment when you’ve made a decision not based on any hard data, but simply based on a feeling you’ve had. Perhaps you made a decision not to do something because you didn’t feel good about it. Perhaps a warning signal went off in your mind, or you felt an uneasy or gnawing feeling. The chances are you made the right choice. Marius Usher at Tel Aviv University found that when people made choices based only on instinct, they made the right call up to 90% of the time.

In Mike Lewis’ book ‘When to Jump – If the Job You Have Isn’t the Life You Want’, Rashard Mendenhall says “if your body’s telling you something, it’s not lying. If you feel you want to do something else, or be somewhere else, and that feeling stays in your body, and it’s not going anywhere, listen. Your body doesn’t lie.”

Your intuition is essentially your inner compass and thus it’s important to listen to what your body is trying to tell you. To harness your intuition take some time to quieten your mind and to be still. Regular meditation, being in nature or gentle exercise such as walking or yoga can help still the mental chatter and is often when your inner voice becomes clearer.


We each have between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day and in our busy and chaotic lives it’s difficult to quieten our minds to reconnect and to really understand ourselves on a deeper level. “Knowing who you are is how you start to design and create a life on purpose” says Adam Markel in his book Pivot, and thus meditation allows us the time and the space to be still and to explore who we are.

It’s important that you take the time out to just be. To focus on your breathing and to connect with your inner being. It is during meditation and periods of being still that people often report feeling increased awareness and clarity, and is often when people experience those eureka or aha moments. In a HBR article, David Rock and Josh Davis agree. They believe that “silence and solitude are crucial for nurturing precious eureka moments.” These “aha!’ moments that spark brilliant, unexpected solutions tend to crop up when our minds are quiet and our consciousness is at rest.”

Carve out time each day to quieten your mind and give meditation a try. See if it, along with the other exercises above, can guide you to your life’s purpose and well on your way to a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

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  • Emma Simpson

    Founder & CEO

    VUCA Leadership Institute

    Emma Simpson is the Founder and CEO at VUCA Leadership Institute, an organization supporting leaders to navigate uncertainty, break through barriers and to courageously lead and thrive in the organization and beyond. Find out more about our coaching programs and group events at