How Meaningful Is Your Work?
How meaningful is your work?
For hundreds of years people have sought work that sustained their mental needs as well as their physical needs to have food, shelter, clothing and life’s other essentials.
The tragedy of the modern day is that too many people work only for the money, just to get enough dollars to sustain themselves so that when they are not working, they can do the work they truly love. This has led to what is often described as a work/life imbalance.
The result is that you find the artist who works in a framing shop by day and sits by her canvas in the evening; you find the actor serving you fries at McDonald’s who takes courses and does amateur theatrics at night. The young man stocking the shelves at Walmart goes home to work on creating exquisite furniture in his basement.
Fewer workers are content to live that way. There are three generations pushing for change now, and together they may force all of our society to re-examine the purpose of our work.
One generation is the baby boomers, the independent, healthy, energetic generation who pushed the boundaries back all through their work life. Now, instead of taking to the golf course or pickle ball court, the boomers have decided to set up a little business doing what they always wanted to do.
The second generation agitating for change is the millennials who just can’t see the point of passing day after day doing something you hate so you will have a few minutes to do something you love.
The third generation pushing for a different way to work is Generation X, who dutifully graduated from university or took a skilled trades program only to discover that the job they trained for no longer exists. Businesses are relocating head offices and downsizing, retail giants are tumbling like dominoes, and media organizations are chopping bottom lines and staff at a record rate.
But as one industry goes down for the count, another emerges, and people are no longer thinking in terms of jobs for life or in many cases, even job security. When more and more of the population starts to be self-employed or contract workers or entrepreneurs, they move closer to building a world of work that they enjoy.
As a society, we are coming to terms with the reality that “dream jobs” don’t exist. If we want them, we have to create our own.
How do you build your own dream job?
I often ask clients to consider if they could do anything they wanted to make a living in 10 years from now, what would it be? Most of them have a ready answer, and are surprised when I tell them: “that is your dream job. Now you must set your course for it.”
They are always surprised that their long-term goal is often quite different from their short-term goal. If I ask them what they want to do in the short term, they will often say they want to achieve a promotion within the company they currently work for, or build their business bigger.
It reminds me that we should be more focused as a society on asking our young graduates what kind of work is meaningful to them, instead of asking them to just pick a profession or a trade.
When your work has no purpose and meaning in your life, you burn out. When you really care about what you are doing, you are fueled with an inner energy that few can challenge.
It is time for every generation to think a little harder about meaningful work and how it can fulfill them.
It is also time to stop just asking our youth what would make them happy and instead ask what would give meaning to their lives.
The reality of life is that many people really don’t know what will make them happy. They think it is achieving a certain position or a certain bank balance or a house by the water’s edge, but when they get those things they are often quite unhappy.
Researchers at Stanford University did a fascinating study in which they asked about 400 Americans whether they believed their lives were happy, meaningful or both. Then they analyzed the results and discovered that uniformly, happiness was linked to being a “taker” in life, while meaningfulness was associated with being a “giver.”
There’s a gem of understanding that emerges from this study. Perhaps, to paraphrase John F. Kennedy, we should be asking not what our work can give us, but what we can give to our work.
Paula Morand is a leadership building, revenue boosting, strategy expanding keynote speaker, author and visionary. This dreaming big and being bold leadership expert and brand strategist brings her vibrant energy, humor and wisdom to ignite individuals, organizations and communities to lead change, growth and impact in a more bold fashion. 24 years, 27,000 clients, 34 countries, 15 books, former radio personality, 11x award winning entrepreneur and humorous emcee.
Check out Paula’s bestselling books on Amazon: “Bold Courage: How Owning Your Awesome Changes Everything”, “Dreaming BIG and Being BOLD: Inspiring stories from Trailblazers, Visionaries and Change Makers” book series; and her newest release 2018 “Bold Vision: A Leader’s Playbook for Managing Growth”.
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