How to Have Meaningful Work

Fall Tree

In autumn, the trees are shedding their old leaves and going into the sleepy hibernation of winter, to emerge again in the spring with new growth and renewed life force. As people we need to “shed” old patterns of self-limiting beliefs, habits that have impeded our forward growth, and behaviors that no longer serve us. Unlike the trees who drop their leaves based on a seasonal climate cycle, we can drop our self-defeating beliefs and behaviors at will. We have the power of choice.

Those of us who are dissatisfied with our jobs may discount our work as not having meaning or purpose. We view it as something we have to do to make money, rather than as something that has intrinsic value for our self-development. The number one reason clients come to me for career coaching is for help in finding fulfilling, meaningful work.

How do you define meaningful work? My clients frequently point out examples of people doing humanitarian work, scientists who are researching to find cures for deadly diseases, social works, teachers and others whom, by virtue of their vocations, are visibly being of service. What about the guy who fixes your car so you can safely transport your family? The engineers who ensure that you have electricity? The farmers who grow your food? Their work is meaningful, purposeful and certainly benefits others. Sometimes finding the right livelihood is not about obtaining another job, but rather it is about shifting our perspective about the work we already have.

If you’re feeling that your job is meaningless or purposeless, try to shift your perspective. To get started, ask yourself these questions:

1. What is the end result of the work you do?
2. Who benefits from your efforts?
3. Are you providing service to your community or the world in some way?
4. What values do you express through your work?
5. How do you impact others at work?
6. Is your attitude toward work mostly positive or mostly negative? Can you shed the negative?
7. What is one thing you could do differently to be of better service to your employer, your co-workers, your clients, or your customers?

“It is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life and it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.” –Jim Collins