Searching For A Deeper Purpose In Your Work

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A story was told about three bricklayers working side by side. When asked, ‘What are you doing?’, the first bricklayer replied: ‘I’m laying bricks.’ The second bricklayer was asked. He answered, ‘Feeding my family.’ The third bricklayer when asked the question, ‘What are you doing?’, responded, ‘I’m building a cathedral.’

These past few months I have been tied up and so busy with a large SharePoint 2010 migration and upgrade project for a Fortune 500 company. Working as the main consultant for this project, majority of the tasks are assigned to me which required working alone, sometimes coordinating work and meeting deadlines. Now, I don’t have any problems managing and taking on larger responsibilities but even with that kind of attitude towards accomplishing the tasks at hand, we can’t avoid feeling overwhelmed (we’re still humans.) Back in January, when things weren’t working out as planned, I felt so overwhelmed with the feeling of being alone and not getting any traction. I thought about giving up and just throwing in the towel. That same feeling crept up on me last week as we were nearing the schedule when the entire system was scheduled to be released to the end-users. You see, I was down with flu, coughing like crazy and couldn’t even keep my head up. Despite that, I still needed to attend conference calls and deliver on the goods to make sure we meet the deadlines. The project is literally sucking the life out of me. I was on the verge of giving up.   Have you ever felt the same way before?

Bill Barnett recently wrote about Making Your Job More Meaningful in the Harvard Business Review blog. He describes three different attitudes toward our day-to-day job and how they define our satisfaction in the workplace. But even when you consider your work as your calling, the feeling of exhaustion and being alone still creeps in that it sometimes makes you want to give up. It’s natural and there is no sure fire way of dealing with that kind of feeling. It’s when I searched for a deeper purpose in what I was doing – something much higher than my own. I always tell my clients that my work is guided by my personal mission statement – “To help people and organizations grow and develop their full potential as God has planned for them.” Even when they don’t understand why I am doing things, it gives them a sense of security knowing that I am working to fulfill a much higher purpose. And that’s exactly what I did.

From the tangible to the intangible

Most technology consultants get hyped up with the latest and greatest hardware and software. I’m no different from most of them. And there is nothing wrong with that simply because the IT industry is in a never ending cycle of introducing new innovations and products that will help address the current issues that organizations face. But this tends to overlook how technology consultants need to approach addressing and solving problems thru technology. Overall, it’s all about the people and their stories. With this SharePoint 2010 migration and upgrade project I was working on, I tapped into a much deeper purpose and searched for the stories that affected people’s lives.

I found one that resonates deep within me. You see, I fall under the category of an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW). And there are millions of us worldwide. While I may be blessed in my career as a technology consultant, there are those who work as caregivers, healthcare workers, construction workers, seafarers, etc. On a regular basis, they send money back home to make sure that their families have their basic needs met – food, shelter, clothing, education.

Every time I get an opportunity to do so, I listen to their stories and engage them in a conversation. We talk about the challenges we had back home, the loneliness of being away from your family and the hope of a better and brighter future. They talk about the sacrifices that they have to make just to earn a living. I see how their eyes well up in tears when they talk about how they miss their children and looking forward to the day when they can be together again as a family. While I do not have the same challenges as they do (I brought my entire family with me when we left home,) I totally understand how they are feeling – I’m one of them, a Filipino at heart. And that’s when hit me. These people use the services of the company I was consulting with. I saw the project from one that dealt with a newer version of SharePoint, hardware with 64GB of memory and large SAN storage to one that made sure that the families of OFWs had their basic needs met. I saw faces and stories in the midst of technology. And I’m sure not to give up on my fellow Filipino nor my country – ever.

I was still experiencing mild fever last weekend when we finally turned on the switch for the new SharePoint system. As we did so, I couldn’t help but be thankful that I didn’t give up. It made all the efforts and sacrifices worthwhile.

Question: When was the last time you had to search for a deeper purpose in your work? Did you have to do it because you felt like giving up? I’d like to hear about your story. Post your comments below.   

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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