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In search of purpose: What we do, and why we do it

<photo: view from basecamp at Mount Elbrus, Russia>

The Lunar New Year of the Rooster is just around the corner and it's reunion time again with family, friends, and former classmates. The usual questions will pop up - are you married, kids, studies and that all-time favourite question - what are you doing now? And the usual replies - I just finished school and got a job, I am doing sales now, I am in between jobs and thinking about what to do next.

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do." said Steve Jobs.

Last year, a survey showed that Singaporeans were the unhappiest workers in South East Asia. Similar surveys found that people in the UK are miserable at work and it's the same for the Americans. "If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it." Steve Jobs consoles us.

Yes keep looking but first look again at what Steve Jobs said - "do what you believe is great work." We have been focused only on the WHAT (doing the job) and not on the WHY (believe).

Simon Sinek, the author of "Start with Why" explains it well - "Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. When I say WHY, I don’t mean to make money - that’s a result. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?"

How do you believe in the work that you are doing? Start with asking whether the company has both a mission (What we do) and a purpose (Why we do it).

Simon Sinek believes that "All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year. Those who forget WHY they were founded show up to the race every day to outdo someone else instead of to outdo themselves."

"I want to discuss why a company exists in the first place. In other words, why are we here? I think many people assume, wrongly, that a company exists simply to make money. While this is an important result of a company’s existence, we have to go deeper and find the real reasons for our being. . . . Purpose (which should last at least 100 years) should not be confused with specific goals or business strategies (which should change many times in 100 years). Whereas you might achieve a goal or complete a strategy, you cannot fulfill a purpose; it’s like a guiding star on the horizon - forever pursued but never reached. Yet although purpose itself does not change, it does inspire change. The very fact that purpose can never be fully realized means that an organization can never stop stimulating change and progress." David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard.

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