A lot of people have trouble finding purpose, happiness and fulfillment through work.
Especially salespeople and sales leaders who find themselves working in environments dominated by extrinsic motivators (targets, money, fear, promotions, etc.)
Below is my story and a process you can follow to help you find more purpose at work.
In my experience, your inner purpose leaves clues in the form of interests.
We all have different interests that range from topics we read about in the news, to activities and hobbies we engage with on a regular basis. Unfortunately these interests are like fragile burning embers inside of us, that can be snuffed out by the world.
This happened to me in University when I failed out of Psychology in my first year.
From a young age, I always had an interest in how the brain worked, which led me to sign up for Psychology 101. But between the boring textbooks, dull professors and multiple choice tests – I failed out.
For a long time, I accepted this failure as the world telling me:
“This is not for you.”
It was only when I found myself in my first sales role 6 years later, when I had the opportunity to explore this interest in a meaningful way.
This ember and interest in how the brain worked, finally had an environment to become a flame.
Between the neuroscience of influence and selling, while struggling with panic attacks and anxiety at the time; learning about the brain and Mental Health evolved from an interest into a passion.
You know when an interest becomes a passion, when you intrinsically engage with it.
This means spending time learning and engaging with an activity doesn’t feel like work. You also tend to have a desire to want to get better and/or master whatever it is that you’re doing.
For a very long time, learning about the brain remained a passion. Over the next several years, I’d read books and tinker with different strategies to optimize my mental performance in my spare time.
But back in 2019, my passion evolved into my purpose and the flame grew into a fire.
This happens when your passion becomes bigger than yourself.
It transitions from something you enjoy mastering individually, to something you enjoy helping others master.
It’s no longer about you.
It’s about becoming selfless and serving the people and communities in the world that you care most about.
For me it was (and still is) those salespeople and sales leaders who are waking up anxious, afraid and burnt out with a target hanging over their head. The ones who are suffering in silence and at war with their thoughts and emotions, but feel unable to open up to their friends, families and colleagues.
The transition of passion into purpose happened when I started Sales Health Alliance (just a blog at the time) and I began writing articles and posts on LinkedIn about Mental Health in sales. Every post and article stoked the flame as I connected with more people who graciously shared feedback that my content helped them.
I wrote content for 10 months before I landed my first client. It was a $500 speaking engagement with a sales team. I then wrote for another 9 months until I landed my next $500 speaking engagement.
It started as a passion project I had while I was also managing a sales consulting business. But over time that passion, purpose and side project became a business.
Time between engagements became 3 months. Then it was 1 month. And then it turned into multiple engagements a month.
I found product market fit, raised my prices and turned what started as an interest that almost got snuffed out in University, into a full-time mission driven company.
In my opinion, this is why so many of us have trouble finding meaning and purpose within work.
We’re told by others and conditioned by society to start at the end. Make decisions that put money first and interests, passions and purpose second.
It doesn’t work that way.
I got lucky in my decision to choose sales as a career path, which helped me transition an interest into a passion, but unlike me – you don’t have to rely on luck.
You can be more systematic in your approach.
Money is an extrinsic motivator and research has proven that extrinsic motivation snuffs out intrinsic motivation. That intrinsic motivation is needed to find our purpose.
For example, if you take a group of children who love to paint in their spare time (intrinsically motivated) and start rewarding them with gold stars (extrinsic motivators); over time they become extrinsically motivated and paint only if they receive gold stars.
If you stop providing gold stars in the future, they no longer paint for enjoyment nor in their spare time. This happens because the reward rewires dopamine systems in the brain to only create pleasure when a gold star is received.
That intrinsic motivation, passion and burning ember is snuffed out.
Something that happens all of the time in a society that over emphasizes the importance of grades, money and performance reviews.
If you are lacking purpose and fulfillment in your work, you can’t start at the end. You can’t make work more meaningful by chasing more money. That motivation and good feeling you get when you receive a commission check, salary increase or bonus isn’t more meaning or purpose.
It’s a Gold Star.
Six months or a year later you’ll likely find yourself yearning for another one, as those feeling of accomplishment created by dopamine wanes.
If you truly want to find more purpose and fulfillment in your work, try following these steps instead:
1 – Make a list of all your interests.
2 – Narrow your interests down into possible passions:
- Which ones do you enjoy doing most?
- What are you best at?
- Which passions do you like trying to master?
- Where do you invest money into learning and trying to get better?
- Which ones don’t feel like work and feel effortless to start?
- What passions make you lose sense of time?
- Who would you be able to help on a daily basis?
- What topics would you enjoy teaching to others?
3 – Transition your passions into your purpose through a side-business/project/hustle or prioritize finding a company which aligns with your passions and what’s important to you.
During the interview process, ask questions about the company’s mission and values they believe in.
Are interviewers talking about your future role in-terms of money, incentives and commission cheques (extrinsic motivators)? Or are they talking more about the difference you’ll make as a seller in helping them solve a problem in the world (bigger than you)?
Even if you’re currently working for a company that doesn’t perfectly align with your passions; you can make work feel more purposeful by engaging in a process called Team Job Crafting (outlined here).
This is also an excellent article on job crafting to try as an individual and something I do regularly.
That being said, it has never been easier to start a side-project/business/hustle by creating a blog, YouTube channel or social media account. You want something outward facing and a vessel to distribute information to others.
Share and create content not with the intention to make money, but instead to serve others and help make the world a better place.
The money will follow later. I promise.
Consistency is king because it’s how you rigorously test your passions. If passions and serving others for free feels like work most days, then you can disqualify them as your purpose.
That’s ok – keep them as passions and something you enjoy doing individually to offload stress.
But don’t give up.
Keep trying to find that purpose.
Keep testing your interests and passions.
Stoke that ember so it becomes a flame and don’t let society snuff it out.
If you enjoyed reading this, consider subscribing to my newsletter below. Topics are focused on supporting salespeople and sales leaders with better Mental Health, Resilience and Stress-Management strategies.
About The Author
Jeff Riseley is currently the Founder of the Sales Health Alliance and Mental Health Advocate. With over a decade of sales experience – Jeff understands the importance of Mental Health in achieving peak sales performance.
Jeff combines his sales and Mental Health expertise to improve sales performance through mental health best practices. His strategies have helped sales teams become more motivated, resilient and better equipped to tackle stressful events within sales.