In this day and age, meaningful work is more important to people than salary and benefits. It is what keeps them motivated and boosts their productivity. Everybody needs to make sense of what they’re doing, and that is directly connected with their level of happiness and productivity.
However, it’s easy to lose all sense of purpose and get stuck in a job you don’t like. Or even worse, in a toxic work environment. If you are in one of these situations, there is still hope. Join me in exploring several ways in which you can bring more meaning into your work.
What meaningful work really means
People experience meaningful work when they feel they are able to make a difference. While it may not change the world, such difference needs to have a minimum impact at least. It should fill you with a sense of growth and satisfaction. You should wake up on Monday morning eager to start a new week.
Meaningful work has nothing to do with salary and benefits; it is more related to happiness at work. Indeed, people need to be happy in order to be productive, and finding meaning in what they are doing is the first way to achieve that.
A possible hierarchy of meaningful jobs
With the right mindset, you can find meaning in any job. Even so, some occupations are considered to be more meaningless, while other professions provide a greater sense of worth.
According to a study run by PayScale, the clergy is at the top of the meaningful jobs list, with 98% of workers finding the job meaningful. Next, 96% of English language and literature teachers find their job meaningful, a tie with directors of education, but also with surgeons.
At the other end, the least meaningful jobs include parking lot attendants, of which only 5% find their job to be meaningful, followed by gaming supervisors, with 20%. Prepress technicians share a tie with title examiners, abstractors and searchers, fabric and apparel pattern-makers, and heavy machine operators, with 25% considering their jobs meaningful.
If you analyze these jobs, you can see a clear pattern: the jobs that people find more meaningful are those that allow them to believe that they help to make the world a better place.
It’s definitely not about the money, since the average pay of an English language and literature teacher is $43,600 while gaming supervisors make on average $46,400 and fabric patternmakers, $52,900. No, it is purely about the sense of purpose, satisfaction and meaningfulness gained from the feeling of helping people and making a difference in the world.
The benefits of meaningful work
People experiencing meaningful work are healthier and happier. They are also better team players, more reliable and less likely to fail. They see mistakes as opportunities for growth and they recover faster from setbacks.
Well-being is directly related to having a sense of purpose. Having aspirations is very important and so is aligning your personal purpose with your work purpose. If you don’t have a personal declaration of purpose, you can create one now. Write down a statement that describes your life philosophy. Make sure that everything you do further in life complies with it.
Meaningful work keeps people motivated. People who believe in what they do are more likely to work hard in order to reach their goals. That is because they care. So they make a personal struggle out of it. They are ready to fight and won’t give up when things get difficult.
How to bring more meaning into your work
People who find meaning in their work are more productive. They procrastinate less and they go to far greater lengths to get things done. It’s important to care about what you’re doing.
So, here’s what you can do build a personal and work environment that fosters meaningful work.
Work on things that bring you satisfaction and do it in your own way. Come up with new ideas. What can be more meaningful than innovation?
Stay away from boredom
Your work may be repetitive, but it doesn’t have to be dull. Boredom is one of the greatest enemies of meaningful work. Even when you need to do the same thing over and over again, you should at least try to find new ways of doing it. Try seeing things from a new perspective as often as possible.
Align your work with your values
Stay away from tasks and projects that totally conflict with your values. If you are an animal-rights activist, you could never find meaning in working on a project that promotes hunting. Ask a colleague to switch or accept only those tasks that won’t come against your moral values.
Avoid being micromanaged
You could never enjoy the results and the process of your work if somebody is nagging you all the time, telling you what to do and, most importantly, how to do it. You can’t find meaning in something that’s done following somebody else’s instructions and according to their vision.
Don’t get stuck
When you feel that your work has lost its meaning, consider that it might be the time to move on. Being stuck in a place you don’t like, doing work that doesn’t mean anything to you might be much worse than the unpleasant process of finding a new job. Take a minute to think what you would like to do next and start making steps in that direction.
Try to change your mindset
Experiencing meaningful work might not come naturally, especially in the case of some professions, as we discussed above. If that is the case, you might need to force things a little bit and look for meaning in what you do. Write down some ways in which your work is helping other people.
You’re not that small in the bigger picture
Even if you’re not changing the world directly, you should still be able to see the role you play in the bigger picture. We are all connected in time and space. So any change you make, however small, might have a huge impact on the lives of other people. It’s pure butterfly effect.
Imagine yourself working as a parking lot attendant. You are not doing much more in a day besides parking cars and guarding the belongings of other people. At some point, you might begin to ask yourself why you’re doing this. People come and go, and nobody seems to notice you. So, you start feeling meaningless. But this is only because you are too attached to your perspective. The reality is that you are much more – you are the person who guards over the safety of people and their cars. You are the one who makes sure that parking lot stays a safe place for women to walk through at night. Thanks to you, mothers get home to their children and husbands to their wives. Your work is suddenly meaningful, isn’t it?