The average person spends 13 years and two months at work, according to one analysis from HuffPost Australia. Compare this to the 328 days people spend socializing with friends, on average, over the course of a lifetime and it is a startling difference.  No wonder it is so important that our work lives bring us purpose and meaning.

There is another compelling reason that I wanted to look more closely at Purpose and how achieve it at work: the Millennials.  Most of our offices employ people in this age group.  How can we understand what drives and motivates this group better so that their job satisfaction is greater? And in turn, their performance is better?

The first task is to define and understand what purpose is and how is comes to have meaning for each individual.

When we first set out to open Simple Innovative Management Ideas, our purpose was clear. With the changing regulations in Ontario and the ability to charge retail for the first time in Ontario, many Optometrists were seeking assistance to guide them through the transition.  The idea of being able to use my business acumen and years of experience to help optometrists improve their business outcomes appealed to me very much!

As the years have passed by, however, and the work has evolved and increased, my purpose has become unclear at times.  Just like the clients we serve, I have had to spend time reflecting on the “why” of what I am doing. According to Emotional Intelligence:  Purpose, Meaning & Passion from Harvard Business Review, in order to find your leadership purpose the first task is to “mine your life story for common threads and major themes.”  In order to do this, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What did you especially love to do when you were a child? Describe a moment and how it made you feel
  2. What have been two of your most challenging life experiences? How have they shaped you?
  3. What do you enjoy doing in your life now that helps you sing your song?

The ultimate goal here is to sum up all of these experiences to succinctly articulate your purpose.

By example, let me share my own thinking on this.  I have always enjoyed meeting new people. I derive a lot of satisfaction from listening to their stories and relating it to something I have heard or learned elsewhere. I just enjoyed this type of interaction.  It was while I was doing my MBA that I came to understand what I was doing from a different perspective. We had an assignment where classmates were asked to reflect on what each team member brought to the table.  For me, they said “Kelly is able to take all the opinions and ideas generated around her and formulate a cohesive and collaborative plan.”  Now with SIMI, the ability to bring collective knowledge and agreement to bear with new clients brings me a deep sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

From this, I am imagining my purpose statement could be something like: To share all that she learns to orchestrate success for others. This statement feels powerful to me. I WANT to be the person who does this.

As a practice owner, it is vital that you take time to think back on your purpose; what brought you to optometry and what drives you forward today.  Because the reality is, employers have the added burden of facilitating a sense of purpose for their employees.  An employee’s sense of purpose will be directly related to the purpose expressed by the owner.

The receptionist’s purpose might be to make every patient feel welcomed and cared for.  The optician’s purpose might be to ensure that every patient leaves feeling confident in their new glasses.  The challenge for employers and employees alike is to look deeper than the surface tasks to uncover the piece that drives them to excel in their role.

It is the sense of purpose – that idea that there is true value in what each of us is doing – that will ensure that the 13 plus years that we each spend on average at work are enjoyable and productive.


is the co-founder and managing partner of Simple Innovative Management Ideas (SIMI) Inc. and expert Practice Management contributor for Optik magazine. She can be reached at


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