Stuck in a career rut? 7 steps to finding purpose – and reasons to get out of bed in the morning

Many people who have made career changes are now more successful and much happier. Picture:

Many people who have made career changes are now more successful and much happier. Picture:

Published Jan 3, 2024


The new year has started and even if you have not nailed down some official resolutions for 2024 you probably have a few ideas of what you want to accomplish – things that make you want to get out of bed in the morning.

And finding your purpose or defining your future is not just a young person’s game; whether you are in your 40s, 50s, or even 60s, countless individuals are rewriting their stories, changing careers, and discovering fulfilment later in life.

Forget age barriers, it's never too late to unleash your passion and make a difference, says Anja van Beek, talent strategist, leadership and human resources expert, and executive coach.

“In fact, a survey from the American Institute for Economic Research discovered that 82 percent of respondents aged 47 to 55 had made significant career changes. Most of those changes happened after age 45, and they are now more successful and much happier due to the change.”

How to create successful New Year’s resolutions

So often, people find themselves ‘stuck in a job’, ultimately a rut, and doing things to simply check off boxes. Often, these things have no significance in people’s daily lives and the jobs merely drain their energy.

Having had the “privilege” of witnessing several professionals discover their true calling and embark on a path of fulfillment and purpose, however, she says that working with your values and purpose is a great place to start if you want to enhance your motivation and clear your direction for 2024.

“Consider your goal to be clear about your abilities and strengths, as well as to share those gifts with the world and contribute significantly to the circle in which you work and live.”

Van Beek offers 7 practical steps to guide you on your journey this year:

1. Embrace the intersection of talent, appreciation, and impact

Discovering meaningful work in today's dynamic work landscape demands finding the sweet spot where your talents, admiration from others, and belief in making a positive effect connect. It's that electrifying feeling of being completely in sync.

To get to this point, you must tune out the outside noise and listen to your inner voice, which holds the truth about your mission.

“Begin by observing the trends of what people appreciate about you, especially in the moments you ‘feel lost’.”

2. Embrace transformative experiences

After witnessing “remarkable patterns” among people who have found their callings, she notes that, often, these emerge from the vessel of challenging experiences.

These defining moments, which can be painful, enlightening, or even life-altering, act as catalysts for redirecting one's path.

“They shake us to our core, reminding us that we are only human and reshaping our priorities, and, ultimately leading us to meaningful work.

“For example, I had this one client who lost his job during an organisation restructure. In our first conversation, it seemed as if he linked his identity to his job and found himself in a place of confusion. His journey to explore what is really meaningful opened doors in another industry altogether.”

Today, he is thriving in a new role, knowing that his contribution is impactful and aligned with what is important to him as a father and community member.

3. Courageously challenge the status quo

One’s true purpose is often born from the courageous act of challenging the status quo, she says, noting that, throughout history, inspiring individuals have dedicated their lives to effecting positive change.

Whether it's breaking through societal barriers, combating injustice, or reigniting a community's spirit, answering your purpose requires boldness, purpose, and persistence.

“It is also here where you need to step outside your comfort zone and embrace the uncomfortable feeling of ‘I’m not sure how to do this. What I do know for certain is I need to move away from this comfortable feeling of stress, change my behaviour and this must be done’.

“One of my managers I coach asks every colleague to identify a few personal goals each year, working with their coaching groups to make this a reality.”

How to make New Year’s resolutions stick

4. Role models and mentors

While discovering your purpose is a personal journey, Van Beek says it is essential to acknowledge the role of those who subtly nudge us in the right direction.

“In my experience, clients frequently attribute their transformative moments to the impact of others – mentors, friends, or even colleagues supporting them in times of change. These people play an instrumental role in guiding you toward your purpose, often without even realising it.”

She adds: “Mentors, in my life, played a huge role. I still recall a conversation with a director in our business influencing my choice to take a promotion, steering me in a direction to pursue an opportunity I would not have had the confidence to do on my own.

5. Growth isn’t linear – embrace the journey

Van Beek emphasises that discovering your purpose should not be seen as a fixed destination but rather as an ongoing process of growth and evolution. Growth is also not a linear process.

“Think of a mosaic of putting all the small pieces together and the end product being different to what you would have imagined.

“Once you identify your sense of purpose, the real work begins. It may involve acquiring new skills, pursuing further education, or even starting a business. Often, it leads to work devoted to serving others — a testament to the nobility of professions often underappreciated.”

6. Don’t let age stop you

While some may discover their purpose at a young age, she has have encountered “countless individuals” who stumble upon their true purpose later in life. This proves that it is never too late to uncover your passion and pursue meaningful work. Embrace the belief that you have the power to find your purpose, regardless of age, she states.

“For me, after being in the corporate world for more than 20 years, I realised I was operating in a comfort zone. I was desperate for a change and wanted to impact more businesses than just the one I was working at. When I founded my business, I was not clear on exactly the services I wanted to render but I was clear on enhancing a human-centric environment where people and businesses can thrive.

7. Rewrite the narrative on wealth

The pursuit of a purpose, Van Beek says, does not always equate to chasing financial riches. Many stories she has encountered involve individuals who sacrificed higher-paying jobs for personally rewarding work.

“The prevailing societal notion of pursuing wealth at the expense of purpose overlooks the profound satisfaction that comes from taking risks, working with integrity, and leading a life aligned with your true purpose.”

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