When I have conversations with people who are dissatisfied in their current job or career, they may not know what they’d rather be doing, but they’re always clear about one thing: they want to be doing something more meaningful.
When I prod a little deeper and ask what meaningful work looks like to them, they’re often stumped. They find it difficult to define or put into words.
‘Meaningful work’ isn’t a new concept, but its increasing use in our career language is relatively new and this comes as a response to the changing expectations of modern-day workers.
Younger workers, particularly millennials, aren’t motivated by the same needs as previous generations. A job for life sounds archaic, and while reasonable pay is important to this group, it’s rarely the sole source of job satisfaction. Instead, having a career purpose (underpinned by doing meaningful work) is a key need.
As it can be difficult to articulate what meaningful work is, below are three definitions that bring this concept to life.
How do these descriptions resonate with you and how can you use this information to start doing work that’s meaningful to you?
1. “Meaning is anything that makes lives better”
People in all kinds of fields have found meaningful work — it’s usually when you’ve done some good in the lives of others… A feeling of meaning can come even if the people benefitting don’t realize what you’ve done. Just knowing you’ve made lives better is a wonderful thing.
Meaning is anything that makes lives better — your own life included. If you are putting smiles on people’s faces, helping them find mindfulness, helping them make a living, making their jobs easier or their headaches smaller… you’re doing something meaningful.
Meaningful work is all around us, and it is deeply satisfying. Even joyful, if we can connect to that meaning instead of going through the motions…
Extracts from Connecting Your Work Tasks to Meaning by Leo Babauta on zenhabits.net:
2. “You need to sync your career needs with your personal values and life goals”
Meaningful work is related to work satisfaction, and work happiness. However, this needs clarification. Meaningful work is more than enjoying what you do, and definitely more than being satisfied with the salary and benefits offered by your employer. It is the feeling you get when you know that your work serves a higher purpose.
…in order to experience meaningful work, you don’t need to change the world but you definitely have to believe that your work makes a difference in society.
If you’re aiming for meaningful work, you need to sync your career needs with your personal values and life goals.
Extrats from the question What is a meaningful work? answered by Alice Calin on quora.com:
3. “Meaningful lives are characterized by contributing and connection”
…a meaningful life is about connecting with and helping others, and contributing to something beyond yourself—such as family, nature, or your work.
Because meaningful lives are characterized by contributing and connection, rather than pure enjoyment, they often include more stress, effort, and struggle than happy lives. But research shows meaningful lives tend to produce more positive feelings long-term than happiness alone, so the effort may be worth it.
Finding meaning in our work, however, is “intensely personal and individual.” There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to meaningful work.
According to the researchers behind the interviews mentioned above, meaningful work arises when “an individual perceives an authentic connection between work and a broader transcendent life purpose beyond the self.”
Extracts taken from Meaningful work: what it is and how to achieve it by Belle B. Cooper on rescuetime.com: