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How to find purpose outside of your career

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Your career doesn’t have to fulfill you in every capacity. Loving your job is important, but cultivating relationships and finding purpose beyond your 9–5 is essential for living a full life.

The “3 bucket” system, created by author Jonathan Fields in the book How to Live a Good Life, articulates how we can live our best lives. The three buckets represent vitality (our body and mind), contribution (our impact on the world) and connection (our relationships). The idea is that these are the three essential components of living a good life—and we ultimately want overflowing buckets.

Fields states that the buckets leak, so it takes consistent effort to keep them filled. Secondly, the fullest bucket is limited by the least full one. In other words, if you’re not taking care of your relationships with your family and friends, you don’t have the capacity to give 100 percent effort in your job and maybe that’s why you didn’t land the promotion.

It seems counterintuitive to spend more time on building or maintaining relationships when you want to receive a promotion at work, but Fields argues that when you focus on your other leaky buckets, the one you had focused on previously with little success tends to rise. It’s all connected.

We want all our buckets to be overflowing. We long to feel like our lives have purpose. The problem is that we often expect our career to fill our contribution, connection and vitality buckets without realizing that we can, and often need to, get those buckets filled in a multitude of ways.

Skills-based volunteering is what some millennials have discovered as one solution to filling their contribution buckets when they might not be getting those filled through their career. They can use their skills and gifts to help those in need through volunteering and impacting lives.

This is one of the reasons Echelon was created and has expanded all over the country. Getting involved in an Echelon chapter is a way for young professionals to use their skills to create change and make an impact in their community. As a member, they volunteer, fundraise and network as a voice for The Salvation Army.

Getting together with likeminded people in service of doing good for others might add to your buckets and feeling of purpose when you’re struggling to find it through your career.

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