Purpose over Profit – How I found my purpose and how you can find yours.
My story: looking for social impact from a business school bench.
I used to be a good A student, easily navigating schoolwork, hobbies, and social life. Then, after 2 years of intensive preparation for competitive exams to enter a business school (the French system called ‘prépa’ to enter ‘grandes écoles’), I found myself on the benches of ESCP Europe in Paris and did not really know what I was doing there. Very quickly, I began looking for a positive social impact in the midst of this traditional business world I was not at ease with. I became President of the school association supporting people in need (Fleur de Bitume, which is still running, bringing food to homeless people on a weekly basis and supporting children with after school lessons among many other impactful projects in Paris) and my first internship was for a Cameroon-based NGO (Solidarité Technologique, which has a great mission with social and environmental impacts: to train students in hardware and software skills while dismantling, reconditioning and distributing second-hand computers). And the trend kept going, with my early professional experiences at the IBM Foundation to create and implement pro bono projects for employees to use their skillset to support local charities in Paris, at the CACIB (French Investment Bank) working on green bonds and social investment deals, and at Afrimarket, providing cash-to-goods transfers towards West African countries.
All throughout my professional experience, there was always one common theme: impact, and one question: How can I use my skills and my knowledge to have a positive impact in the world?
When I arrived in Leeds in 2016, I was just out of a few years as the Marketing Director of Afrimarket, the then fast-growing start up. I used to work all the time, prioritised my work life over my personal life (including friends and family), and did not notice it until I left. Only when I arrived in Leeds did I realise that I was working my way to burnout: I had become cynical about the job, I felt exhausted (mentally, physically and emotionally) and I had no idea of my self-worth or what I was to do next. Burnout became my new field of study, maybe to realise what I had escaped.
I had soon found my new purpose with my new search for local positive impact in Leeds: burnout prevention.
Because burnout prevention is better than cure on many levels:
On an individual level: you don’t recover from burnout in a few duvet days. It can take months to reconstruct yourself after experiencing burnout.
On an organisational level: very often, people who experience burnout are leaders, high achievers, and have a high level of responsibility. When such a key person is off work for a few months, it does have a negative impact on the workload and morale of the team members, and on the organisation’s bottom line.
On a social level: burnout does not only impact yourself, but also your family and friends who often suddenly see one of their main pillar stepping back for a little while.
On a societal level: burnout is more common than we think. According to a Virgin study of 2015, 50% of UK full time workers are likely to experience work-related stress, anxiety or burnout throughout their career. What impact does this have on our society?
That is the reason why I created Mind It and Leeds Wellbeing Week. My mission is burnout prevention.
Both organisations work hand in hand and support each other’s positive impact. With Mind It, we support organisations with their wellbeing strategy. We offer workshops, webinars, training and consultancy to help employees and organisations to thrive. With Leeds Wellbeing Week, we support Leeds citizens with their own wellbeing. Every year, in the Spring, we organise a series of events for Leeds citizens to try out wellbeing activities, which are varied, accessible and affordable.
We add value in 3 different ways:
We organise group sessions instead of individual support: connecting with others is one of the most important aspect of wellbeing. We do understand the importance of one to one support when needed, and our experts can offer this, yet we emphasize the importance of gathering, sharing experiences, talking, experiencing something new, together.
We adopt a practical approach instead of a theoretical one. In addition to a strong theoretical knowledge from our experts, all our workshops and webinars are very practical with a series of exercises and activities to experience wellbeing, instead of just being told how things work.
We believe in incremental steps instead of radical changes. All our workshops and webinars have a call to action at the end to invite attendees to choose their next small step(s). Because wellbeing is not about turning your life upside down overnight (our concept of the grey zones). Sometimes, small adjustments can go a long way and that’s what every workshop and webinar will invite you to explore.
Now if you are looking for your own purpose in life (and in work), here is our suggested 3-step approach to find your purpose:
What drives you nuts? This is linked to your values and your personal story. Find a topic you could talk about for hours, and/or one that gets you upset or angry. You are on the right track! On my hand, looking at rising burnout figures gets me upset, and hearing from another of my friend on the edge of experiencing burnout gives me the motivation to keep working.
How could you contribute? There must be a way for you to contribute to this cause, and it does not necessarily mean quitting your job (again, the grey zones). Look out for charities, local people, online forums, Facebook groups… in line with this thing you want to change in the world. You will soon meet a great community and have a better idea of where you could start.
What’s your first step? Among the diversity of ways for you to get involved, what is the route you would choose and what would your first step be? By taking incremental steps, you will soon be clear on what you want to do, how and when, one step at a time!
I would love to hear about your journey to find your purpose, so feel free to comment below or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org !