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This is part of a series looking at microskills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Register your company now at

What purpose motivates you to work?

Said another way, what incentive – besides money – motivates you to go to work each day?

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More employers are focusing on this question as they try to retain and attract millennials. One Deloitte report from this year suggests that 44 per cent of millennials are likely to leave their current employer in the next two years because of gaps in leadership skill development, work-life balance issues, feeling overlooked and a conflict of values.

Ultimately, each employee defines their own purpose and value. This is what motivates them.

This microskill promotes the value of pausing for a moment each day to tap into your purpose and consider "why" you are doing your current job.

A career is one step in a life journey. Not all of us work to get ahead in our careers. Some people's reason to work is to support their life and family.

It's up to each of us to define our purpose. What you're doing today may not be what you want to be doing in 10 years, but it may be a required step. I recall taking a few university courses on topics I was not particularly interested in but through mentoring I was taught to focus on my purpose and end goal – not on what I was doing at that particular moment. If I didn't, I might have made some knee-jerk decisions that could have delayed me getting to my true purpose.

Here are some issues to think about to develop your career purpose.


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If you're looking to develop your career purpose, what you believe you can do will be influenced by self-esteem. Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, Tesla Motors and others, had the confidence in himself to create the purpose that's now driving his vision and business. We don't all need to have this kind of grand vision, but unless we can create a vision and believe in it, it will be difficult to define our career purpose or why we do what we do and the meaning we attach to it.

· If you're struggling with your self-esteem this may be holding you back. One action is to complete a quick self-esteem survey, evaluate your results and decide if you would benefit from coping skills training or professional support. Through focus and intention, you can develop your self-esteem.

· Your purpose is the spark that can get you through tough periods. By tapping into your purpose, you can push forward. This awareness can help to develop your resiliency to coping challenges on the path to your end goal.

· What is your career purpose today (above and beyond money)? This simple question can shine a light on your why. If you are unclear, through reflection and focus you can lock on to it. Purpose is powerful medicine for living a fulfilling and meaningful life.


The average career is around 30 years. We each have the opportunity to live our career the way we want. Some of us use our careers to serve our life (such as support our family). For others, careers are part of what defines their life contribution.

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It doesn't matter. What matters is to be in tune with our purpose so we can harness this energy each day. A healthy purpose is fuelled by a vision bigger than ourselves. This may be the awesome responsibility of parenting, the internal reward of facilitating social responsibility, or a desire to make an impact through the work we do, such as teaching students how to read.

If your daily actions are not aligned to and support your purpose, you have the choice to change them.


The clearer our purpose, the more we can tap into it to drive our thinking, motivation and behaviour in order to have a good day. The following points work if you're clear about your purpose. If not, then perhaps the first step is defining your purpose.

· My 100-yard purpose check-in: Each day, as you get close to your place of work, shift your focus on exactly how your work can help support you. Whether the job is a stepping stone or your dream job, it doesn't matter, as it's only one day. Focusing on this day can support your purpose by dialing in and becoming fully committed and engaged. Days are more enjoyable and rewarding when we have a purpose.

· Doesn't need to be perfect: When we are in tune with our purpose, we are better able to accept that each day doesn't need to be perfect. If you're having a hard day and are feeling stressed, stop for a moment and focus on your purpose. Focusing on why you're doing what you're doing can help you tolerate days when things are not perfect so you don't make decisions based just on the emotion of that day.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this link:

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