One of the biggest sources of frustration in your career comes from doubting if your work is meaningful.
It doesn’t matter whether you work for a multinational company, a small company or you work for yourself, if you wake up in the morning wondering the dreaded questions “What’s the point of all this? Why am I working so hard? And is it even worth it?” it’s hard to enjoy your job.
So what do you do?
Do you quit your job and try to work for a company more aligned with your values? Do you give up on your business and say it wasn’t going to work?
Well, the first thing I recommend all clients do is avoid the most common mistake… which is to run.
I can remember the times when I didn’t get along well with my manager or when I felt a company culture was too toxic for me to stay. And as soon as I realised I didn’t want to be there anymore, I’d resign under the hope that the next manager or the next company would fill the void in my heart.
But no matter what company I’d move to, it wouldn’t take long until the same feelings arose.
And that’s because I didn’t know what I know now. Which is that what makes your work meaningful isn’t the people you work with, the culture you’re in or how high your salary is.
What makes it meaningful is having a reason to wake up in the morning and feel grateful and delighted for the job you do.
Here are four steps you can take to find your reason for waking up excited to go to work.
STEP 1: ASK YOURSELF WHY YOU CHOSE THIS JOB OR BUSINESS
What made you choose the career path you’re on? Why did you choose to do this job?
Asking yourself these questions can help you remember why you’re here in the first place.
You don’t need a particular reason to make your work meaningful. You just need at least one good reason for it to be worth your time, energy and attention.
For example, if a parent needs money to take care of their kids without getting into debt, a job that helps you do this is a huge deal.
However, many of us take things for granted. And we forget that if we were to lose the things our job provides, we’d be significantly more unhappy and frustrated.
So get connected to the most important reason you took this job in the first place and ask yourself whether you’re getting what you initially wanted.
STEP 2: WRITE ALL THE BENEFITS YOU’VE GAINED FROM THE WORK YOU DO
We tend to appreciate things more if we feel they give us lots of benefits.
Often when we go through difficult times at work, all we can think about are the things that are going wrong. The changes in the organisation, the disagreements with senior stakeholders or the pressure we’re under.
We can have a laundry list of all the things that are frustrating and pay little attention to the things that are making us happy.
Trouble is… what you focus on expands. The more negative things you focus on, the more negatively you’ll feel about work. And the more positive things you focus on, the more meaningful work will feel.
So switch things around. Focus on the positive things, benefits and experiences you’ve been able to get from what you do. And ask yourself, why are these benefits and experiences important to you.
STEP 3: IMAGINE THE IMPACT YOUR WORK HAS ON PEOPLE’S LIVE
Imagine the work you do every day is kind of like an undercover superhero that’s changing the world.
This may seem like a stretch. Particularly if you feel the work your company does isn’t philanthropy or world changing. You may even question whether your company delivers toxic products or services.
But the truth is… every little action every single person takes in the world, shapes the world we live in today. From the cleaners who clean the streets and your office to the Product Managers who helped to create your experience on Facebook this morning.
While you might not know or immediately see the impact your contribution is having on the world, imagine how what you do impacts someone’s life.
How could the little things you do help to make someone’s day?
When you see the positive changes you’re making in the world, however small, it gives you a sense of fulfillment.
STEP 4: IDENTIFY HOW MUCH YOU’VE GROWN SINCE DOING THIS JOB
Last but not least, see your growth.
There’s a quote I love which says “Without rain, nothing grows. Learn to embrace the storms of your life.”
As challenging, disheartening and demotivating things may be at work, I invite you to consider that this experience is exactly what you need to go through at this stage in your life.
There are always things we need to learn to get to the next level in our career. And often we don’t see what those things are.
We experience our discomfort as though it’s caused by something external and out of our control. Whether we blame a manager, a culture, a job or a company.
But the discomfort comes because there’s something that needs to change. Often we need to be the first to change, for the external circumstances to change too.
When we are stuck and can’t transform frustrating experiences into positive ones… there’s usually something we need to learn and a behaviour we need to change to come out to the other side.
And if you feel that it really isn’t you and it’s them, I invite you to consider that sometimes the worst of managers, cultures and work environments are the greatest teachers. They show you what not to do. And knowing what not to do is one of the most powerful things you can ever know.
And that’s it!
My intention is to help you gain a deeper understanding of how to find meaning at work. So please leave a comment below if you have any questions.
Hundreds of incredible people read this blog every week and your comment may help someone else get a breakthrough too. I can’t wait to read your comment.