Philippa completed CBBC's Rebuilding Your Community training as part of her professional development. In this article, she reflects on her sense of purpose and where the training connected her with tools to support her motivation and sense of purpose.
If I can, I will start with a personal story.
My cousin has two daughters, aged 13 and 10. I remember when her eldest was 2 years old, she would be constantly asking the question, “Why?” It didn’t matter what the subject was, she just always wanted to know more. I understand this is a common experience for parents everywhere with toddlers who are trying to understand this world they live in. I believe that for many people though we get to a point in our lives when we stop asking “Why?”
How many adults really know why they are doing what they do, beyond earning a living?
Many people do their job just because it is what they have always done and it is part of their routine, so why change it? But this can eventually become demotivating. If there is nothing to be gained, why continue?
If you want a more fulfilling life, it can be helpful to start questioning what you are passionate about and what you get out of bed for every morning, then think about what you are gifted at. Identify the point at where these cross over with each other. This is important because you won’t get anywhere if you are gifted at something but not passionate about it, or if you are passionate about something but not gifted at it. Once you find this crossover, think about where it intersects with what the world needs. This is your “why”, or your purpose. Your job now is to find roles that are aligned with who you are meant to be.
This is just a brief overview of how people can find their “why” or their purpose. When we spoke about this topic earlier in the Rebuilding Your Community training, I thought about what my “why” is. I said I wanted to create equal access to education and resources for every single person on this planet. This is something that already drives me in my work with CBBC, and it’s something I can apply to my life generally.
CBBC is about creating flourishing communities, and as that aligns with my “why”, it allows me to live out my life’s purpose.
Ever since I was 20, I have volunteered for various causes which have related to my purpose. These have ranged from an activity centre for elderly people living independently at home, to a toy library for young children. I have also volunteered at several one-off events such as music festivals. I currently volunteer at two community centres and at a local library. I don’t know if at the time I had a clear idea of what my purpose was in words, all I knew was that I wanted to help people, especially those who may have faced barriers to accessing resources.
I will focus on my work with CBBC. I have a couple of roles, but my main job is as a research assistant. This involves researching academic articles on specific topics, sometimes writing summaries and/or reports on my findings, but always with an aim to make people aware of alternative methods that recognise people’s agency, help build communities, and assist them to flourish. Often, the topics I focus on are about empowering traditionally marginalised populations. The more I research a topic, the more passionate I become about making a difference in the world. Though I have a clear idea of my purpose, there are times when I find it hard to concentrate on my work- mostly when my feeling of self-worth as a research assistant takes a hit, when I start asking questions of myself such as: is the work I am doing of any help to anyone? Is it useful to the big picture goal? Is it any more than just ‘good enough’? Am I on the right track? Am I interpreting this correctly? Other questions like this come into my mind at times also.
Some of these questions can be answered by simply getting feedback from people. Others are a bit more complex. As I was re-watching the TedX talk where Reggie Rivers speaks about not focusing on the goal but on the behaviours along the way, it made me think about how I could approach my work. This doesn’t dismiss the importance of knowing what I am working towards, but I believe it will help if I can focus on the little achievements along the way rather than on the end goal all the time, as that can be overwhelming. Also, I found it helpful to read Lolly Daskal's article, 19 Highly Effective Ways to Stay Motivated because although I already knew about most of the ideas, it was good to see them written down and it allowed me to internalise them a bit more. Coming back to my “why”, which is intrinsically linked with my values. I feel that keeping it in my mind could be a way to stay motivated to do my best work.