Written by Kayleigh Dray
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.
In this new episode of the Stylist Live Sessions podcast, Fearne Cotton – aka the presenter, podcast host and author – has shared her quest to find meaning and contentment. And, in the process, she shared her top tips to find purpose in a job you hate.
Fearne Cotton’s name has long been synonymous with mental wellness, even before she first explored the concept of happiness in her 2017 book, Happy.
Since then, of course, she has written plenty more books on reflection and wellbeing (Speak Your Truth, Calm and Quiet are the first to come to mind), not to mention lifted people’s spirits via the Happy Place podcast. She even took over the Stylist website for one whole day, filling it with her own personal brand of pure positivity, and lifting everyone’s spirits in the process.
Earlier this year, Cotton took her journey one step further when she launched The Happy Place app, which acts as a hub of wellbeing tools – think yoga routines, guided meditations and breathing exercises.
And so, when it came to her appearance on the Stylist Live Sessions podcast (which was recorded via the Stylist Live 2022 stage on Friday 11 November), is it any wonder that everyone’s ears pricked up when she began sharing all about her personal quest to find a sense of purpose – especially as some 56% of polled Stylist readers have said they’d like to do the same.
Listen to Fearne Cotton on the Stylist Live Sessions podcast below:
Why are all of us, then, so obsessed with this idea of finding purpose, then?
“I think we just want to feel more,” Cotton told Stylist’s Lisa Smosarski at one point during her incredibly popular talk. “And that’s probably because we’re bombarded constantly by images on social media.”
Of course, this is the first time that Stylist Live has taken place since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic – and Cotton spent some time talking about how the events of the past few years have changed us and our lives, for better or for worse.
“I think giving people the ability to work more flexibly – especially parents who, as we know, really struggle with getting that balance and childcare and the cost of it all – has been really brilliant,” said Cotton. “But there’s obviously been some very tough changes, too.
“I think any change probably ignites something in us, and ignites a lot of questions, and maybe we realise that we’ve got the capacity to change a lot more than we thought. We’re open to new things – and I feel quite hopeful. Yes, we all know there are systemic problems, global problems, environmental problems. We know that change has to take place, and solutions have to be found. And yes, I think we’re all collectively feeling the tension of that, but also hopefully the hopefulness of that as well.”
The conversation soon turned to the topic of our working lives – and the seemingly endless career ladder we are all attempting to climb on a daily basis.
“You’re just climbing a ladder that’s never ending,” stressed Cotton. “And you probably have a hope that, at some point, you will feel complete. But you won’t; you’ll just strike another level, and another level, and you just keep going. And that can be exhausting, but it’s also soul destroying if you see yourself then going down the ladder, or plateauing because you’re like, That’s not what’s meant to happen. I wanted to keep climbing the ladder, and then end up a golden shiny person. But that doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist.”
She continued: “Even the people that we look to, in whatever field of work – the ones who are top of their game – are riddled with insecurities.”
Speaking about her own experience of the ladder, Cotton revealed: “I had to hit rock bottom to see that the stuff I was doing wasn’t working… it was a long, bumpy road to get anywhere near the brain space for that.
“I realised, ‘I don’t want to be on the telly. I don’t want to do any of this stuff anymore, I’m over it’. And I then started to gravitate towards being honest – which, in my line of work, luckily led to a whole new thing. I wasn’t expecting it. I wasn’t planning it… [but purpose comes from taking the time to] heal your past traumas, and I was forced to do that. It was then that all the other stuff came to the forefront.
“So, when you look at finding your purpose, start by doing that inner healing work. Because there’s no one out there that can tell you what your purpose is. And you can’t copy someone else’s purpose because it looks worthy, or even fun. You and only you will know what yours is.”
Cotton added: “I think that purpose is just finding something that you do really well, and that you really enjoy.”
Adding that it doesn’t have to be a big or grandiose thing, she continued: “It could be just like being nice to your next-door neighbour, and always checking in on them and making sure they’re OK. That’s purpose. Or when you’re at work, even if you hate your job, you can find purpose in it by making sure that you’re nice to the people you work with, that you make the person next to you smile, that if you’re serving a customer that they leave feeling like they were seen and heard.
“It’s all that good stuff, because if you find the purpose in it, then that in turn might lead to you finding a job that is more suited to you.”
Essentially, Cotton said, your personal sense of purpose might come from “something very small and very simple that makes you feel really aligned with your values”.
“And it will make you feel good on a physical, mental and emotional level,” she added. “Because you’re always going to be dissatisfied if – in the context of our working lives, at least – you think that you feel like you’ve got to feel completely fulfilled in every way.”
Listen to the rest of the conversation via episode one of the Stylist Live Sessions podcast on Apple and Spotify.
Images: Alexandra Cameron/Bronac McNeill
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