Our lives will be happier, more meaningful, and more effective, if we have a purpose in life.
If you haven’t found meaning in your work for months … If your career seems to have peaked … If going out with coworkers and spending time with colleagues is totally unappealing to you … If simply thinking about the next work meeting weighs you down … Something inside you has begun to die.
Don’t let another day go by without addressing this, because time alone doesn’t fix things: we must act if we want to change the course of our lives. Find a purpose in your life, set a goal, and you will start to see things differently.
This is the advice of Mario Sergio Cortella, who holds a doctorate in education, and is a full-time professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo. Based on his long professional career, he believes that it is essential in life to know why we do what we do. Following in the steps of Aristotle, Cortella suggests that this self-knowledge helps us make sense of our days and our entire life. It serves as a starting point and gives us the ability to carry out the tasks at hand, and even sacrifice ourselves, if necessary, to achieve our clearly identified goals.
The first great message Cortella offers is that we need to know how to endow our life with a purpose, with a concrete objective. For example, why do I get up in the morning? Who or what motivates me to get up, go out, and look for work when unemployed, even after doors have closed on me?
Though the author focuses on the professional arena, his advice can help in other areas of life as well. Cortella reminds us that “purpose” comes from Latin roots “pro” and “ponere,” which mean “to put” or “to place” something “in front of” me.
The author has found that many people are no longer satisfied with a mere salary or income, for example. “There is a quest to be recognized and valued for what one does. I don’t want my effort to be useless or wasted. And I don’t want to be misunderstood either, if I’m a person who has good intentions.” People often say, “I need to know the purpose, and what’s the point of what I’m doing,” says Cortella, who stresses that the vast majority of people today are no longer willing to live as if they were blind to things that are harmful to society, or work simply as “merely useful but ignorant fools.”
The benefits of a routine
The Brazilian professor challenges common beliefs, such as thinking that routine tasks are always tedious. “Developing a routine means organizing a series of standardized procedures with which a process is carried out.” Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of repetition, Cortella points out that this is actually beneficial to our lives: “This predicable repetition is what makes routine more efficient and increases effectiveness. A symphony orchestra will play better the more carefully the score on their music stand is read.”
Routine work is organized, structured work. It’s dangerous not to pay attention to its benefits and, on the other hand, it is likewise dangerous to merely do everything as “automatons.” But when routine is properly motivated it becomes a gem of a tool to further motivate our work and life.
St. Josemaría Escrivá wrote in number 498 of his book Furrow: “You are writing to me in the kitchen, by the stove. It is early afternoon. It is cold. By your side, your younger sister — the last one to discover the divine folly of living her Christian vocation to the full — is peeling potatoes. To all appearances — you think — her work is the same as before. And yet, what a difference there is! It is true: before she only peeled potatoes, now, she is sanctifying herself peeling potatoes.”
Find the incentive
How do I become and stay motivated at work? How do I help my co-workers or my employees to feel motivated? Cortella asserts that there must be a stimulus, an incentive. The external stimuli can be quite varied, according to the professor: “It can take the form of a reward, such as an economic return, or come from the recognition of your authorship or the quality of your work as a professional and of your contribution to the whole.”
“Doing good does us good”
In addition to that, Cortella sees an important contribution to society in people who act with purpose: “Doing good is good for us,” he says, “because the where I choose to do it has a positive impact on the community, and isn’t a place where one simply earns money” which because doing good in and through our workplace “creates a dynamic in which it is possible to reconcile profit and good deeds.”
The purpose I assign to each moment of my life is very important because it can become the actual launch pad that drives me to work and live for my family, for myself, and for a better society. Or, in the words of King David to the One who was the driving force of his life: “O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you … I rise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words.” (cf. Psalm 62:1; 119:147)