Do you wake up each morning with the knowledge that you are about to use the day to do something you love? In the evening, do you go to bed feeling fulfilled and satisfied that you spent the day doing work that was meaningful to you and utilized your own gifts and passions?
If not, you’re not alone—according to an international Gallup poll, less than 20% of respondents strongly agreed that they enjoyed what they did each day. To investigate the impact of this phenomenon, Gallup researchers Tom Rath and Jim Harter studied the health and wellbeing  of a group of 168 people through the course of a normal workday. As you might have expected, those who reported feeling engaged with their work had higher levels of happiness and less stress  than those who reported feeling disengaged.
Dr. Jonas Salk pointed out that having a purpose in life is essential for all living things, saying, “To become devoted to a calling, to have a sense of responsibility and to have hopes and aspirations are all part of being human. To have no calling, no sense of responsibility, no hopes or aspirations, is to be outside of life.”
People who report feeling engaged at work may agree that their work pursues a calling. A calling:
For some people, work is simply a job, a source of income, perhaps even a source of stimulation and reward, but unrelated to their broader purpose. For other people, their job or career is closely interwoven with their life purpose—it is a vocation, perhaps rooted in the notion of service. As described by Frederick Buechner, “Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.”
Your calling may not necessarily be your job—it may be a hobby, raising a family, charity work, or a way of relating to and helping others—but as purpose often extends broadly into all aspects of life, it will likely engage with your work as well.
For those who want to integrate career with life purpose, it is not enough to simply long for more meaningful work. As Nicholas Weiler argues in Your Soul at Work, you need to clearly define what you are looking for and then persistently seek it. As he says, "Fulfilling careers seldom happen by chance. People who find personally meaningful vocations do so because they assume responsibility for their journeys."
This doesn’t mean you need to run out and switch careers. Pursuing meaningful work may simply mean integrating your gifts and passions into the job you do have—for example, volunteering to organize an office recycling program or charity drive.
According to Richard Leider, the equation for purpose is G + P + V = P.
That’s gifts + passions + values = purpose.
Fewer things are sadder than watching a person with potential waste their life without using their gifts. Many of us have gifts hidden away that we are not fully expressing. We may have overlooked them, or we may use them so frequently and effortlessly that we take them for granted, and so they go unappreciated. Yet, when we name these gifts we find them to be critical to a life of energy and vitality.
Ask yourself these two questions:
Your gifts will arise in the responses that answer both questions—after all, you probably have a long list of things you’re good at, but don’t enjoy doing. A true gift is something you can give back to the world with ease and pleasure.
Your calling will engage both your mind and your heart—your natural gifts and the issues you care about most. Your passions will reveal where you want to direct your energy and guide your goals.
When your life and work decisions are based on your gifts and passions, the power of purpose emerges, bringing alignment, energy, flow, and aliveness.