Forget Work-Life Balance: Achieve Work-Life Integration by Finding Purpose

Leadership Expert and Author
The problem with work-life balance is that it traps us in a career or job-oriented mindset, working for either a paycheck or purely to climb the latter. Find purpose instead, says Dan Pontefract.
  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Dan Pontefract:  Famous Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once wrote to be that self which one truly is, is something t first thing about when you’re trying to figure out our own personal purpose. So the three questions I want you to think about are as follows. What are you about? What are the attributes, the values, the likes, the dislikes? Get it on a piece of paper and say what am I about? What do I want to be about? The second one is who am I? Who am I trying to be? Who are those people I aspire to? Who are those things in myself that I want to change? And then the last question is how. How am I going to show up each and every day in this life of mine? Once you begin defining, deciding and developing your what, your who and your how at the end of the day that’s going to create a pathway to purpose.
Purpose really is your defined sense of self. And it starts with you. Purpose is not given to you. Purpose is not bought. Purpose is defined and decided and developed by you. Now ostensibly we all have to work somewhere. And so what you’re trying to do is to match as best possible that defined sense of self with an organization that ideally has as close a match to that defined sense of self. So you’re looking for an organization that also has defined itself how you want to view the world, how you live the world. And when there’s a balance as close to as possible as 100 percent between your defined sense of self and the organizations defined sense of purpose than in your role and reciprocally in your life you will be living and working with a sense of purpose.

So once you’ve defined your sense of personal purpose. Once ideally you’re working at an organization that has a higher purpose hopefully you have a purpose mindset. We’ll come back to that. But when things aren’t in alignment, when you’re not in a sweet spot you will actually fall into one of two other mindsets. A job mindset or a career mindset. So here’s how that looks. A job mindset will just feel like a paycheck. It’s very transactional. You just punch it in. You’re punching out. And the reasons for falling into that job mindset usually come because you’re disengaged, you’re disenfranchised, you’re disillusioned with either yourself and/or the organization that has power mongers, hierarchical bureaucracy, they’re not listening to you, fill in the blank. That’s a job mindset. Very sad. Equally sad however is the career mindset. Now don’t think of career in this case as what people would call career development. Think of this as what I call girth.

So when people are in the career mindset they’re actually trying to extend girth. And girth comes in several forms such as title. People trying to climb the ladder for a fancier title. Pay. People pushing people out of the way so that they can get more pay, more remuneration. Budget. People actually hoarding ideas so that they can look good in front of their boss so that they get a higher budget for the next year. These types of trappings that are systemically found in the organization create lots of leaders who have that career mindset. So when you have a portion of the organization in the job mindset aided and abetted by those leaders who are aspiring to the career mindset then you have a lack of purpose. But if you have an alignment between your personal purpose, for example, one of higher purpose the organizations good deeds – and you feel good about this. You’re being listened to, feel good in your life. It’s all working copacetically you’re now in the purpose mindset and you’re going above and beyond the call of duty in your role. You are a transparent individual in that role. You’re almost altruistic. It doesn’t feel like a job. It feels like it’s your life. So there’s this life-work integration. Not work-life balance when you’re in the purpose mindset. And ultimately both you and the organization are then in the sweet spot.

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Edge Logo

Big Think Edge helps organizations get smarter, faster by catalyzing conversation around the topics most critical to 21st century business success. Led by the world’s foremost experts, our dynamic learning programs are short-form, mobile, and immediately actionable.