Being asked the question, “Do you find meaning in your work?” is kind of like being asked, “What’s the meaning of life?” Both questions would receive answers from many different perspectives, including philosophical, religious, scientific/fact-based and personal.
However, meaningful work and measuring the value of your work seem to be topics of late that have started a conversation about what it really means to find meaning in your work, and if finding meaning and purpose in your work makes you happier in the long run and should be the metric used for measuring success in your working life.
Work meaningfulness has been defined as the “degree to which an employee experiences the job as one which is generally meaningful, valuable and worthwhile.”
This leads us to ask ourselves the question, “Why do we do what we do?” In particular, why do we do the work that, for many of us, occupies most of our waking hours for our entire adult lives? Given the importance of work, it is perhaps no surprise that workplace experiences can strongly influence a person’s well-being. Research has shown that perceiving one’s work as highly meaningful is important enough to many people that they would take a significantly lower salary.
We all know that work can provide a sense of economic security by providing a regular source of income. However, in addition to paying the bills, work can also provide an individual with a sense of purpose, meaning, and identity. And people who derive a sense of meaning from their work are usually more motivated, have higher levels of productivity and are overall more satisfied with their job. On the flip side, a lack of meaningful work has led to people feeling isolated, anxious, bored and emotionally exhausted.
So how can you find meaning in your work?
Below are several ways to either find a job that will help you find meaning and purpose or ways to help you possibly change your current job situation to find meaning in what you are already doing.
- Understand your values. Work can only be really meaningful if it’s part of your life’s purpose and your life’s purpose will most likely be aligned with your values. Become clear about your values because they will help you find happiness in your job. Make a list of the five things that are most important in your life, e.g. family, friends, spirituality, money, career, work/life balance. Ask yourself how your job is serving those values. Once you understand how your life values are being met at work, you’ll feel more aligned with your job.
- Understand why you work. To be happy at work you need to understand your attitude and reasons for working. There has to be a reason for doing things otherwise you would never get out of bed in the morning. Certainly money is a driving force, but there should be other reasons that you keep getting up and getting yourself out the door to go to work. Make a list of what’s important to you and if your current job doesn’t fulfill those needs, what job would?
- Place value on the work that you do. The work you do will somehow touch the lives of others in some positive way. Work becomes more meaningful when it makes a contribution to our own lives and to the lives of others. Every job has intrinsic meaning. It doesn’t matter what you do. Not only does it give you an income, but it will impact other people or the world we live in.
- Understand your job’s purpose. Every job has a purpose. Acknowledging this can help you to feel good about what you do. List three of the more important tasks you are employed to do and why it’s necessary to do them well. Having this clear purpose shines the light on how you should spend your time, and you’ll find yourself focusing on what’s important.
- Use a career setback to help find more meaningful work. If you have had a career setback and are feeling dissatisfied with where you are, use it as an opportunity to learn from the past and find more meaning by accepting your failures and growing from them. This is a core component of any successful career.
- Attitude is everything! Having a good attitude at work is immensely powerful and it will lead to being happy and successful in your job. A good attitude is something that everyone can work on and improve with practice and mindfulness. Learning good interpersonal skills, in particular, is integral to your happiness at work. If you can learn to consider others in a consistent way, they will respond in kind, and your work will be much more satisfying.
Find a way to find meaning in your work. You’re so worth it!