Woman in gorilla suit reveals why you can't job purpose

Woman in gorilla suit reveals why you can't job purpose

Job purposing is simple: Do small acts through work to help others or a charitable cause.

The garbage worker in Turkey salvages books in good condition for low-income families. The California hairdresser becomes trained in domestic-violence services to aid clients she suspects are victims. The marketing associate in Wisconsin gives his email campaign a charitable twist by adding one sentence encouraging participation in the fire station’s fundraising drive. These are not complex undertakings.

Are you wondering why, if it’s so simple, you can’t come up with a way to purpose your job?

Don’t worry. It’s not that you’re dimwitted. Job purposing might be simple but not it’s not easy, at least not initially. You’re set up to fail, as evidenced by a woman in a gorilla suit.

Two research psychologists, Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris, showed ordinary folk a 40-second video of people clad in either white or black passing basketballs. He asked viewers to count the number of times the players in white passed the ball. During the video, a woman in a gorilla suit pranced onto center stage, beat her chest a few times and pranced off.

At the conclusion of the video, the majority of viewers had no recollection of the gorilla spectacle. For real.

Think you wouldn’t miss the gorilla? That’s what almost all of us (90%) believe. Even if you’re in the attentive minority, the study’s conclusion applies to you: You miss evident things all around you all the time. Ever pulled into your driveway and had no memory of getting off the freeway? Ever fail to notice your spouse’s new haircut? I thought so. You’re human.

Failing to perceive things that fall outside of the focus of your brain’s attention is a universal phenomenon social scientists call “inattentional blindness.” Be grateful you have it. Without this filtering system, the millions of colors, shapes, sounds, words, sensations that assault you every minute would fry your brain. You would go mad.

Inattentional blindness might keep you sane, but it’s also why you don’t see a single job purposing opportunity. At your task-oriented workplace, you’re concerned with the items in your job description. You aren’t scanning for opportunities to help others or serve a charitable cause.

Hundreds job purposing options lay in front of you obscured by inattentional blindness. If only you could see them. Good news! With a little redirection, you can. We don’t miss the gorilla when we are looking for it. Direct a small portion of your attention everyday toward serving others and job purposing options will manifest. Here’s an exercise to help you do just that:

1. Set a reminder on your smart phone or computer at three arbitrary times during every workday for two weeks. For example, at 9:15, 11:25 and 4:45.

2. Put these three sets of questions in the reminder:

  • Can I do my current work task in a way that helps people more, helps more people or helps a charitable cause?
  • Have I noticed any suffering or injustice at work? Could I do anything to relieve it?
  • Can I do a part of my job in a more environmentally sustainable or charitable way?

3. When the reminder goes off, stop what you’re doing and take five minutes to answer the questions. If a job purposing idea pops up, no matter how wacky or infeasible, write it down. Add to your list day after day. Before you go back to your regular work, review and revise the cumulative list. If any ideas are feasible, try them out!

4. Of course, if you’re in a meeting or driving when the reminder goes off, postpone or skip that iteration of the exercise. If you end up missing more than half the sessions, find an alternative time to spend 10 minutes a day on the questions.

5. You can also follow me on Twitter (@BeaBoccalandro).  Starting today, I will tweet at least two job purposing examples per week.

It’s time to shine a light on a wondrous part of work. Your job purposing options might not be big, hairy and prancing, but they will amaze you nevertheless.

2 Responses

    1. Like the gorilla I was so excited I missed the “t” for This post!

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