Wrapping It Up: Reflections on Meaningful Work

Part 3: Be Your Best Self to Love Your Work and Have Meaning

This is the secret sauce. If you are your best self in your job and in your personal life, you will love your job and won’t struggle so much with finding meaning. Here are some tangible steps you can take to become the best version of yourself professionally and personally.

  • Remember: You impact others

    Humans are social beings. We are wired to connect with others. This is why one component of meaningful work is service. Service, however, doesn’t have to relate to your actual job duties. You can offer kindness to someone at any opportunity. It’s amazing what a kind word will do for others and yourself. In the process, you’ll create deeper connections with others, meaning you’ll also be happier and perform better. Our society is interconnected, so no occupation is more or less legitimate than another occupation. We rely on others to help make society work. A garbage collector is just as important as an artist and just as important as a banker. Garbage needs to be hauled away, especially if you live in a crowded city. Art (in all forms) needs to be created because it gives us awe, inspiration, entertainment, and joy. Bankers help us with our money, so we don’t have to carry it around or jeopardize it being stolen from under our mattress. While these are overly simplistic overviews of these roles, you get the point: all work is important.

We need to value each other’s work and value our own work.

  • Develop Your Craft

    If you’re like me, you get that magical feeling when you’re able to do something really well. It’s a feeling mixed of confidence and pride (and maybe a smidgen of smugness, particularly when you nail something that others can’t do). One of the keys to bringing more joy and meaning to your work is to develop your craft. When you play to your strengths and take the time to develop your craft, you build confidence and momentum, which enhances your positive feelings towards work. You might not know what your craft is, potentially because you take your ability for granted. Maybe you don’t notice your gift since it comes so easy. Or perhaps it just hasn’t been developed quite yet. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to know your strengths, play to them and develop them deeply. If you aren’t sure what your strengths are, I describe some steps to take to identify them in my blog post, Feeling Maxed Out? 5 Tips to Maximize Yourself Instead.

  • Have a life outside of work

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,
All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.”

– Maria Edgeworth, Writer

I love this quote. Even if you see your work as a calling, you need to take breaks to play if you want your career to be sustainable.

Play is good for us! It relieves stress and improves our overall well-being. When you take time to rest and participate in fun activities, you produce better work when you return to your job.

Additionally, laughing releases endorphins (the natural happy chemical), which increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. Play is a version of the fountain of youth!

We’ve been taught from an early age to work and then we’ll be rewarded with play. But in my experience, the harder and more you work, the less time you have for play. No one is going to come and rescue you by announcing it’s time for recess (I miss those), so you must make play a priority for yourself.

If you still think your current job stinks, ask yourself these five questions. The work you do might have more meaning than you think…

  1. Do you like the people you work with?
  2. Do you enjoy the actual work you do?
  3. Do you see how your job connects to the big picture (and does the big picture have meaning to you)?
  4. Do you/can you bring more ease or a smile to someone else through your work?
  5. Does your work support your family or lifestyle that is worth more than the impact work has on you?

What can you do to shift your mindset about work? What’s in your control? What’s one step you can take to come closer to saying yes to any of the questions above?

If you don’t feel like any of it is in your control and you’re simply miserable, this is probably a sign you need to change jobs. What matters is that your work is aligned with your personality, values, and preferences.

But don’t forget to start your new job with a new mindset. Without a fresh and positive perspective, it’s possible (and likely) the same situation will manifest in your new job. The following quote is a great reminder of this:

“And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.”

– CONFUCIUS, CHINESE PHILOSOPHER

Do you need help making a mindset shift to see your work differently? Do you need help figuring out your strengths and knowing where to spend your energy? Did you just realize you need to change your jobs and the thought terrifies you? If so, I’m here for you.