Personality research often has focused on how people change in response to the work environment, given that work constitutes a significant portion of the daily life of adults. However, most research has failed to consider the effect of the work context on purpose in life. This omission is surprising given that purpose research involves several characteristics that align well with the occupational psychology and organizational behavior literatures. The current research considers how one feature of the work context, work stress, may (or may not) facilitate the purpose development process. We put forth a Purpose and Work Stress (PAWS) model which explains why understanding whether work stress is perceived as harmful or challenging to employees can provide significant insight into whether that occupation is aligned with the individual’s purpose in life. Furthermore, the model highlights that the ability to monitor and interpret work stress may help an individual identify and cultivate their purpose. Implications of the PAWS model are described, including how it may help us understanding the roles for retirement and job crafting on purpose.