The Joy of Meaningful Work
author:Jan Marie Dore
The search for meaning in life and in work has been a very powerful, enduring theme in every culture. Many of us have reflected on our work and the meaning it has in our lives. Developing a rewarding career is closely linked to enjoying a more meaningful life. A poll taken by the Gallup Organization in 2001 indicated that less than 30 percent of people are fully engaged at work. Until recently, a job was simply a way to earn a living. Many people have come to regard work as a necessary evil, something they must do in order to pay for all their needs and wants. But today, our need for personal job satisfaction and for striking an appropriate career/life balance has taken on greater importance. There has been a movement worldwide to view work as a means to fulfillment rather than just a chore. Organizations are recognizing the need to offer their employees not only financial incentives, but also ways to find meaning and purpose in their jobs. There is a renewed interest in finding meaning in work and in life, and a yearning to be involved in something greater than ourselves. Most of us spend a lot of valuable time working. We spend more time at work than we do with our families, rejuvenating ourselves, in nature, or in our places of worship. Yet, most of us are just too busy to pursue meaning. We are on automatic pilot through most of our busy workdays. Work is no longer providing a sense of personal significance for most people. This failure to actively engage in our work keeps us from finding meaning, and leads to increasing feelings of dissatisfaction and a loss of purpose. Career and achievement are one of the major sources of meaning in anyone’s life. If your work doesn’t feed your spirit, you may be feeling tired, drained, and depleted by the end of the day. That’s a good indication that you’re in the wrong job. Finding fulfilling work is challenging but very rewarding. You don’t have to continue doing work you don’t enjoy just because it’s what you’ve always done. The bottom line is that your work and career are adjustable, and you are in control. WHAT MAKES WORK MEANINGFUL? The intersection of work and meaning occurs when you are using your energy in the service of what matters most to you. All meaningful work shares the following three common traits:It nurtures and empowers you. Meaningful work builds you up, sustains you, and helps you to learn and grow. Even the most mundane and dreaded aspects, no matter how difficult, are very satisfying. If your work has meaning, it feels worth the effort, and each night you go to bed glad that you did what you did that day.It matches your core values. Your deepest core values shape your perspective, guide your behavior, arouse your deepest emotions, and determine your choices. Work that has meaning connects you to the things that are most important to you, to those values you hold in highest regard. If you feel that your work lacks meaning, it’s almost certainly because it conflicts in some way with your values.It connects you with your passions and interests. You can’t be successful if you don’t have passion. If you don’t have passion for what you do, do something else. Search to find happiness in your work life. If you are passionate about an area of interest, find out what makes you happy and consider pursuing it as a career. Find a niche where you can live your positive traits to the fullest. You’ll be much happier if you do.DOES YOUR WORK INSPIRE YOU? Clarifying your values will ultimately lead you to greater meaning in your work. To get a sense of how strong the power of your own purpose is as it relates to the work that you do, answer the following questions:- How much do you enjoy what you do?- Does the work you are doing inspire you?- Does your work feel like a calling and give you a sense of purpose? – Do even the mundane details of what you do inspire you to be your best? – How excited are you to get to work
in the morning? – How accountable do you hold yourself to a deeply held set of core values? 5 WAYS TO MAKE IT HAPPEN Those in search of developing a better relationship to their work might take time to do the following: – Clarify your core values and align your work with them.- Develop a philosophy, mission, and vision that guide your work life.- Reconnect to a sense of purpose about your work to give you a clear direction. – Determine what contribution you can make to society.- Bring mindful attention to your work every day.