A veteran I'll call Bob has a good job as a branch manager of a successful company and a loving wife and children. Yet when we met 15 months ago through the ACP website, he was struggling with personal issues related to transitioning out of the Army. Bob recently recalled my assurance then that civilian jobs serve a purpose when he wrote, "I'm still lacking the sense of purpose I had in Iraq and Kosovo and could really use a fresh point of view." The response I prepared for him, with help from Samantha Schwarz of the ACP staff, may have broader interest.
I first emphasized how Bob should keep the big picture in mind. Remember that purpose is not just about self-fulfillment, but how one contributes to the success and endurance of larger entities. Whether it's your company, your employees, your family, or your community, it is fulfilling to remember that individual work and doing your best to fulfill individual responsibilities contributes to the survival and success of something bigger than yourself. Shifting how you think about purpose to all facets of your life can change your attitude.
Recession-related business and financial problems had also undermined Bob's managerial confidence. Building on earlier points, I noted that from an economist's perspective, profits earned by his branch were rewards from customers for providing services they needed and valued more than competitive offerings. So by "barely keeping his branch performance above water" in a troubled economy, Bob had helped his customers survive and succeed while simultaneously paying wages that helped his employees to support themselves and their families through trying times.
If still unsatisfied, I recommended that Bob review an article on Military.com: When Work No Longer Works -- How to Find Fulfillment Again, which discusses how questions on the Myers-Briggs test can help to identify personally satisfying work and work styles. He could also check out communities like "The Mission Continues," "Team Rubicon," or "Team Red White and Blue," whose members understand the struggles that veterans face and can help provide new focus for purpose and fulfillment. In closing, it is also worth noting that these ideas can help civilians that are worried about their sense of purpose too.