How to Make Work Meaningful

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All work is creative, no matter what your job description. No matter what you are producing or generating, whether it be digital, material, or ephemeral, you are a creator. Once we begin to look at our jobs this way, a new line of inquiry sometimes appears: What are we creating? Is it something we consciously chose? Is it something we enjoy or feel satisfaction from? Are we making a contribution that we consider valuable? These can be surprisingly unfamiliar questions in a capitalist society, where the primary measure of success we’re encouraged to consider is how much money we receive for our labor. Who cares what we’re doing as long as we get paid? Sometimes it might even seem that the more we get paid, the less important it is that we enjoy what we are doing.

We don’t have to think this way! Money is necessary to live in the world we’ve constructed for ourselves, and there are many beautiful and useful things that can be done with it, but making it the sole criteria by which we measure our hours and days does not generally result in a meaningful life. On the contrary, engaging in work that is very far out of alignment with our personal values or interests can lead us toward feelings of emptiness and dissatisfaction, even illness. The good news is that, usually, you don’t need to change your job in order to align with it more closely, although finding new employment might sometimes be an appropriate choice.

Regardless of your current work situation, you were not born into this life solely for the purpose of making money, of that I am certain! If you feel at all restless or uninspired by your work, start by asking yourself this open-ended question: “If I didn’t have to work for money, what would you do with your one and only life?” The answer(s) may surprise you. Make a list.

Next question: "Is there anything on this list that I can scale down and act on immediately, within the parameters of my current work situation?" You may need to miniaturize your list items quite a bit. For example, if you want to travel the world, maybe you start by taking a walk at lunch. If you want to end homelessness, you might arrange to donate company services to an organization that is doing just that.

Final question: "What is the one thing about my current work that I feel the most engaged by?" Engagement is a secret backdoor into creativity, meaning, and purpose. Calculations, research, collaboration, facilitation, planning, writing – whatever it may be, identify a tangible feeling of being engaged, interested, stimulated, challenged, or curious. Focus on that aspect of your work, and celebrate the time that you are able to devote to that thing. Perhaps, investigate whether there may be any way to spend more of your time in that sort of activity.

What do you find meaningful about your work? Leave your stories in the comments!

If these questions feel challenging for you, it might be time for a deeper exploration of your  work and career. This is a common theme in my coaching practice and I would be happy to set up a free consultation call to see how I might be able to support you in bringing more creativity into your work life or identifying specific changes you’d like to make in the near future. Set up a free call for yourself, or forward this post to a friend!