Jim Collins wrote, "It is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work."
If you’re in the doldrums, craving more meaning in your work life, these mindset shifts will get you on the path to a greater sense of purpose:
1. Focus on your values.
When your main focus is on all the ways your job is lacking, you can lose sight of the many ways that your job may actually be fulfilling. To get more in touch with the ways your job is meaningful, take some time to consider your core values. To do this, simply write down your top five values, then reflect on how your job aligns with them. For example, if being of service is important to you, consider the ways your job allows you to serve others. If you discover that there’s too much of a disconnect, it might be time to move on.
2. Take small steps.
Although it sounds romantic to abandon everything, move to Bali, and write your best-selling novel, the truth is, that just isn’t possible for everyone. So, take small steps to create a more meaningful work life. For example, if in the previous step you found that there are certain core values that you aren’t able to express in your work, brainstorm ways that you might be able to do so. Then, take action. Knowing that you’re doing what you can to make your work more fulfilling is incredibly empowering.
3. Pretend your time is limited.
A research study found that when a sample of undergraduates were told to live the next month like it was their last in their particular city, they doubled their sense of well-being compared to a control group. Try this experiment at your workplace for the next month, by imagining that you’ll be leaving your work in a month’s time. (Of course, no burning bridges or telling your boss where to stick it during this experiment.) You’ll likely become more aware of the aspects of your work that you would miss, and in doing so, you might develop a greater appreciation of what you currently have.
4. Cultivate connection.
Having strong relationships imbues life with a sense of meaning. And having close connections at work is associated with greater job satisfaction. So, instead of making it all about business, make sure to be intentional about building relationships with your co-workers, and enjoy the benefits.
5. Take time to recharge.
If you tend toward workaholism, you might find yourself starting to resent your job, simply because you’re consumed with it all the time. Give yourself permission to take breaks, engage in your hobbies, and generally enjoy yourself. Doing this can help you to lower your stress level and allow you to reconnect with those parts of your job that bring you joy.
6. Practice gratitude.
At the end of each workday, write down three things you’re grateful for in the workplace. Perhaps something went really well for you. Maybe you had a positive interaction with a client. Maybe you just got paid. As you focus on the positive, you’ll find that your attitude about your job just might change.
7. Challenge yourself.
If you feel like you could do your job on autopilot, it simply might not give you the same sense of inspiration that you experienced when you first started. If that’s the case, see if you can bring some more excitement or challenge into your work. Collaborate with your boss to see if you can take on a special project or assignment. Or ask if he or she can coach you so that you can get yourself ready for a promotion. With some additional intellectual stimulation and bigger goals, you might find your job becomes more meaningful to you.
If your workplace is involved in the community, see if you can volunteer. Research has shown that volunteering activates your neurons in a rewarding way, giving you that "warm glow" feeling you get when you do something good. Volunteering can also help you to deepen work relationships and even increase your life span. Just make sure that you’re truly doing it out of the kindness of your heart. Research has found that if you’re only volunteering for self-serving purposes, you won’t get the same benefits.
Katherine Hepburn wisely said, "If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting." Try out these eight tips, and see if you can bring greater interest and meaning to your work!