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Happiness At Your Job Through A Higher Purpose

By Julian Kalmar

Don't like your job? Transform it using the magic of purpose.

The results of a remarkable experiment demonstrate the power you hold to completely transform your job. The experiment is believed to have taken place during the Great Depression when many were unemployed, destitute, and purposeless. [Please forgive me if some of the details are wrong. I couldn't find the source of this story.]

As I understand the experiment, the U.S. Army employed two groups of previously unemployed men. The first group was taken out into the desert to dig holes. They worked very hard all day in the scorching sun, and every day was the same: Go to a new location in the desert, dig holes, and return exhausted.

Amazingly, and in spite of the back-breaking work in the desert heat, the more they dug, the happier they got. They had a purpose even though they didn't know why they were digging the holes.

The second group of men had a different job. Every day they would go to a different location in the desert to fill holes. They didn't know about the first group of men. All they knew about their job was that they were being paid to fill holes. Like the first group, they labored all day in the hot desert. This went on day after day. At the end of each day they were exhausted but satisfied. Lo and behold, they became happier too.

This hole digging and hole filling went on for some time and both groups of men had become significantly happier than before they started their work: They were productive and had found a purpose. Now watch carefully what happened next, because the experiment wasn't over...

One day the foreman of each group went to the men to tell them about the other group of men and what they did. When the men realized there was no real purpose to the jobs they were doing, they were devastated. Their purpose was destroyed. None-the-less, the experiment continued. For every single man without exception, the hole digging and hole filling was sheer misery. Both groups of men were extremely unhappy. Even though the pay and the work was exactly the same as it was before, they were miserable. Nothing had changed, except their sense of purpose was absent.

This experiment reveals a great insight. If we can find genuine purpose we can gain tremendous job satisfaction. But any type of purpose won't do. You have to know how to create the right kind of purpose. Let's see how...

Purpose is determined in two ways. Sometimes a purpose is seemingly delivered to us by others, like our bosses. As employees we typically adopt the purpose our company needs. Those who are self-employed adopt the purpose of their clients. The second way purpose is determined is that you look beyond the immediate task to see its higher, more noble meaning. So rather than simply accepting your assigned tasks and adopting the task as your purpose, introduce an extra step of finding the higher purpose in your task. You'll still do the same task in the same way physically, but now you'll add the magic of a higher purpose.

Here are some examples. Say you're a locksmith and your task is to install a lock on someone's front door. If you only adopt the purpose of installing a lock successfully, you might be happy or miserable; gratified, or not, by your work. Instead, of accepting the lock installation as your purpose, look for the real significance of your task. Your purpose isn't really to install a lock, is it? That's just the task. Your purpose is to protect a family from criminals. You are a protector. Someone who saves people from violence, burglary, and even murder. As you install the lock, treat each step as if you will be stopping a murderer next week. Make it even more personal by imagining that you are stopping a murderer whose next victim would have been someone you love. Every step of the installation becomes like a karate block to thwart a thug. You are a hero, a savior.

Or perhaps you work in an office and must prepare a report for your boss. If all you see in the task is that you must create a report, you won't have much fun. Ask yourself, "What's the higher purpose of this report?" Maybe your company is a pharmaceutical company and the report will permit your boss to ensure that new drug research is funded. That humble reporting task is about to save a lives. What if it were your child's life, or your spouse's life, or your parent's life. As you begin pulling the data together for your report, keep your higher purpose in mind. Treat every detail as if one person would die if you got it wrong. Make it your highest work. Five years from now, compare the difference between these two outcomes. The research funding was approved and your parent's life was saved. Or, your non-recognition of the higher purpose led to sloppiness that lost the funding and you caused your own child's death.

Or, maybe you work in a factory packaging food. You feel your job is monotonous. Would it be so monotonous if you mentally followed the food you're packaging? Imagine it leaving the plant in a truck, arriving at a market, getting purchased, and then getting cooked and eaten by a family. Maybe that food is part of the only meal they'll get that day. Or maybe it's for your family a week from now. Your purpose isn't really to put food in a package...is it? Isn't the higher purpose to take away the pain of hunger? You are giving the kindness of pain relief to another. Never mind what your co-workers or society thinks of your job. Every morsel of food you treat with care and protect from spoiling is a noble, if not sacred act of kindness. It is a gift.

Purpose is something you choose to apply to the tasks you do. You can be hero, a person of nobility, or a savior, even in tasks that others consider humble. One way of finding a higher purpose in your tasks is to think altruistically. For example, picking fruit may seem like hard physical labor. Yet if you treat each piece of fruit as a gift from nature (or God) that is going to remove someone's hunger, the act of picking fruit becomes an almost holy task, an act of removing hunger. Likewise, mopping the floor or washing clothes can be transformed from a chore to a gift of cleanliness for your family, the same family you care for dearly. The true value of each task gives us purpose, a reason for caring about the quality of the outcome.

If you are a spiritual person, higher purpose may be readily discovered according to your beliefs. Take purposeful action according to your faith. Your actions become a form of worship or communion in perfect alignment with your ideals and the Universe. Ask yourself how you can best help others. By thinking in terms of the good you can do, and reinforcing that to yourself as you work, your purpose brings peacefulness, good will, and satisfaction.

Without such purpose, all you have are miserable, lowly, repetitive, unrewarding tasks. With purpose, you lead a high and noble life that is filled with meaning and purpose and value. Remember how miserable the men in the desert became without purpose? Had each one adopted the personal purpose of communing with the land, the soil, and nature, and had they taken interest in the rocks and things within the soil, they would have enjoyed every strike of the shovel. You can do the same with your job.

Copyright 2005 by Julian Kalmar. All rights reserved.

Out of the box
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