Working On Purpose: Happiness + Results

Some of you might have heard the story of the 3 men laying bricks and how 3 different men all doing that same task, viewed the task differently.

If you haven’t heard of it, allow me to explain:

One day, a man was walking by a construction site...

In his travels, he walked by 3 different men that all appeared to be laying down bricks, or were in the process of building something. Being friendly & intrigued about what was going on, he decided to ask each man what they were doing.

The first worker that the man saw laying bricks, he went up to and asked, “What are you doing?” The worker replied, “I’m laying down bricks.”

The man kept walking and saw the next man doing the same thing, but looking happier; Intrigued by this difference, he stopped and asked him, “What are you doing?” the worker responded to the man, "We’re building a church!”.

The man continued to walk further along the construction site and happened to see a third worker, also “laying bricks”. This worker was vibrant, compelled, deeply purposeful, almost infectious in the way that he seemed to enjoy his work.

He also displayed a certain sense of energy, focus, and craftsmanship going into the work. Striking more curiosity in the worker than the previous worker, the man approached him asked the same question, “What are you doing?” and with a twinkle in their eye and a rhapsodizing expression, the third worker replied “I’m building a house of God to spread meaning and holy spirit for myself and those around me!”

This story strongly illustrates the power of perspective and how:

how you perceive what you’re doing influences your attitude towards it, and your actions/performance.

You might wonder why it matters that the bricklayers see their work differently. After all, if they’re equally good at laying bricks, what difference does it make?

As it turns out, this makes a very big difference. The way you view your work can completely change your level of engagement with your work and in turn, the quality of your work.

When you see your work as nothing more than a job, it can be hard to care a whole lot about the quality of the work. It’s hard to motivate yourself to put in the effort that is needed. You clock in, put in your time, and then clock out and go home.

On the other hand, if you see your work as a career, then you think about it a bit differently. Your work now becomes part of something larger than yourself and your career becomes a step towards something greater later on in your life. Thus, your motivation and life satisfaction improve and you do better work.

Finally, if you see your work as a calling & purposeful, and you truly believe that you are providing value to the world you live in; You are passionate about your work, and you help others to feel that same drive.

You are willing to sacrifice and do more to bring about an even bigger positive impact.

It’s nothing more than therapeutic techniques used by cognitive psychologists for years now with the notion – change the thought pattern, change the corresponding attitude, outlook and behavior.

According to psychologist and author of the book Grit, Angela Duckworth, the first man has a job, the second man has a vocation (career) and the third man has a calling (purpose).

Many of us I am sure can say we want what the third man has in our lives.

Whether it’s bricklaying, accounting, coaching, retail, or caring for our children, we want to have a deeper sense of purpose, passion, and joy in what we are doing.

When you see your work as nothing more than simply a job, or rather a tedious task; it can be very hard to care a whole lot about the quality & craftsmanship of the work.

In fact, one study found that, when janitors connected their work to the higher meaning of keeping guests healthier and providing a better experience, their job satisfaction and performance increased.

In other words, cleaning the insides of toilets was not seen as a “disgusting, miserable form of work” but rather an integral part of keeping hospital patients healthy, free from disease, and providing an unforgettable experience to the guests that.

Moreover, this also leads to great reviews for the company itself too as they benefit too, not just the single employee alone. Essentially, everyone reaps the benefits as a collective whole.

In essence, a little duty can be viewed as not a disgusting job, but rather an integral part that contributes to a much larger scale and a meaningful project.

“A lot of people assume that what they need to do is find their calling. I think a lot of anxiety comes from the assumption that your calling is like a magical entity that exists in the world, waiting to be discovered.

A calling is not some fully formed thing that you find, it’s much more dynamic. Whatever you do— whether you’re a janitor or the CEO—you can continually look at what you do and ask how it connects to other people, how it connects to the bigger picture, how it can be an expression of your deepest values.” –Amy Wrzeniewski

In other words, you don’t just “find your purpose” you develop your purpose, it takes practice, experience, repetition. You develop this purpose based upon your situation and what you can do with it, how you can grow, how you can change, what you can change, and how you can serve others.

Contributing to what matters

As human beings, we all have one very special need, and that is the need to belong

the need to belong refers to the human need to be accepted into relationships with others, or a member of certain social groups.

Though this same need does not always apply exquisitely to social belonging.

Social belonging can also be referred to as belongingness at times. Belongingness is a more appropriate terminology outside of relationships, whereas it can be either relationships, religion, giving back, or another compelling reason.

In essence, humans have an inherent desire to belong to something or be an important contributor to something greater than themselves

Rather, the most fundamental reasoning—is people want to matter in this world.

People want to be a part of something very special. Whether it’s finding the cure for cancer alone in your laboratory, inspiring others by being the first person to walk on the moon; whether It’s being in an organization impacting lives, or being there for your family that counts on you.

The bottom line is people want to matter and have a purpose for being.

People are more interested in who they will be, rather than what they will get.

Three things to ask yourself:

  1. How does what you’re currently doing connect to other people?
  2. How does what you’re currently doing connect to the bigger picture of society?
  3. How does what you’re currently doing express your deepest core values and beliefs? What can you do to express these values and beliefs in your work?

In the end, your work can always go from: job to career to calling without the work ever changing itself. It’s simply the perspective you have on what it is that you are doing.

Calling doesn’t always mean you are pursuing your direct calling or “mission” on this planet, but rather you have a calling and purpose for doing the specific task at hand.

Ultimately, this is what’s going to help you do the job better, help you help & serve others better, and help you derive much more meaningfulness and joy in the work itself.


Creating meaning and structure for independent work. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Psychology. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. New York, NY, US: Scribner/Simon & Schuster.

Share the post:

  • This is a sidebar text.

  • crossmenu linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram