What is meaningful work? Is it…doing something you love? doing a job you feel alive in? finding meaning in your work? having security?
Does meaningful work mean simply making life meaningful and making it count?
We’ve all had the job we wanted to run away from. That job we felt like we’d hit a wall in, or that unfulfilling season where things just didn’t quite feel meaningful. Maybe you’re there now. You’re in that season of waiting, longing and frustration hoping to find more meaning in it all.
The truth is that even when it seems like “meaningfulness” is hard to find, sometimes the problem is that you’re searching too hard to find something that already exists. Because there is meaning in every bit and stage of your path. The more you step into it, the more you will find yourself in greater alignment with your passions, dreams, and desires.
I’ve gone back on multiple accounts to a book called The Ministry of Ordinary Places. It’s always such a beautiful reminder that oftentimes we miss immense opportunity to find so much purpose in every day, ordinary places. I’ve learned, too, that there is meaning in the mundaneness of parenting, and in an 8 (or 9) to 5 job, and “quiet” seasons. I spent so much of my career and early parenting years feeling like I was “wasting” away time and energy in not using my skills or “pursuing my passions”, but now I look back and think I actually wasted opportunities and time instead.
Holding yourself captive
Part of the challenge we face is that too often we hold ourselves captive in seasons of waiting. We’re waiting for meaningful work to find us or find ourselves on an endless search – for “the perfect job” or the “perfect season” – to feel aligned and alive and hoping to arrive at the place that holds the key to unlocking more meaning in our lives.
So, we wait. We search. We miss out. We waste our gifts in our disengaged and disenchanted longing. We waste our energies consuming ideas and filling our minds with where others seem to be. We miss and dismiss moments, opportunities, and relationships. In the search for bigger, better, more “meaningful” opportunities, we miss the potential of the moment.
A better way of thinking
What if rather than embarking on an endless search for meaning or constantly looking at what we do for a living, what stage of life or season we’re in, or the stage we’d rather be in, we instead choose to embody more meaning in all that we did? We could, instead, focus more on embracing what kind of person we want to be rather than what we need to be doing in order to be doing meaningful work?
Perhaps in tapping into the kind of person you want to be and in holding on to your why and your purpose behind it all, you could create more meaningful conversations and moments. You could, in turn, fill your own bucket and actually feel more alive and aligned today. And rather than overthinking and overanalyzing where you’re at, why you can’t, and why you don’t, you could instead start living out meaningful work.
Because you can create meaning. You can find greater joy right here, right now. You can seek out more of what matters to you while you have it. Because so much of what you’re longing for you, you already have. Don’t miss it.
If you find yourself chasing meaning…stop!
There is meaning in where you’re at, what you’re doing, and in why you’re doing it all. Your work can be meaningful. Your conversations and interactions can be meaningful. Stillness can be meaningful. It doesn’t always have to look like you think it should and it won’t necessarily produce “fruit” that you’ll be able to see today.
You just being here on this planet is meaningful work.
Everything you do can be more meaningful if you’re intentional about it. The opportunities that today has for you can be filled with greater meaning and purpose. You have the choice to add meaningfulness to your day and to your work. To be intentional and think about how what you do, think, and say can create impact. It can be useful. It can be of so much value and importance to others.
Where does meaningfulness live?
If the importance and meaningfulness you’re searching for strictly revolves around yourself, you will find voids where you’re hoping to find meaning. However, if the importance you’re searching for is outwardly focused – in helping others feel important, in not seeing the work you do at its surface value but instead looking beyond its surface and deeper into its roots and the fruit it can bear and the opportunities it can create for others – there, you will find meaning.
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself-Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it” – Viktor Frankl
Today, choose to create rather than wait for meaningful work. Think of one thing you can do today to help make someone else’s day a little brighter, help someone feel valued, or most importantly connect back to your why. As you embrace more of where you are, what kind of person you want to be, and how you will choose to create meaning, perhaps you’ll find the meaningful work you’ve been searching for all along.
Podcast Episode: Meaningful Work