Finding Meaning in Work

What is your dream job?

No, really, what is it?

I rolled over this morning and asked my boyfriend this question in a sleepy haze and, after a short pause, he said “I’d be in space. I’d be an astronaut.”

I thought to myself, I could see that–he’s always been intrigued by stars and cosmos and black holes and the endlessness that our existence contributes to. I could see that for him. So I asked, “Do you see my dream job in me?”

 

“No…. And that’s okay.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about work recently and the meaning of work. Mark Twain has a quote that reads “The two most important days of your life are the day you’re born, and the day you find out why.”

I am fully aware that I have not found my dream job or cultivated what will be my life’s work. One of the most difficult challenges for me is finding meaning in my current work and spot in life, but not in conventional ways one would imagine. I work for green companies, for example, but I still have challenging work environments with different sets of issues in each that make me feel like I don’t find the meaning in my work because the environment does not permit it.

On days when I am thinking about meaningfulness in my jobs and various hats, as well as facing challenges in the workplace, I remember a few questions to answer for some clarity to take a breath. On difficult days, you should too:

1. Are you in a realm that feels like it is adding value to the world around you?

This does not always look like building a rocket ship or finding the cure for cancer–are you contributing to your local economy? Are you helping businesses treat their workers better? Are you bringing joy and memories to someone visiting town for a meal? Value comes in many forms and taking a step back to remember that is crucial.

2. Are you appreciated in your work? 

From your boss, clients, or customers. Think about the skills you bring to your position and the opportunity you are presenting to your company with your skill-set. Think about what would happen if you were not around.

3. Is effort made to make you feel included and valued?

We all stumble in odd ways to make others feel included in work proceedings. Whether that looks like office parties, happy hours or your boss nudging a coworker to not be so shy and get to you you, that all equates to effort.

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