For years we kept waiting for the moral of our life to become obvious, but it never did. Work, eat, sleep, repeat: No moral. No plot. No eureka! Just work, eat, sleep, repeat. We might as well have been living inside a photocopier. Without meaningful purpose, we were just good-looking animals going around and around a giant mouse-wheel. Enter the year 2020…
One thing is now crystal clear: The status quo is NOT the way forward. Humanity is undergoing a rapid shift in all of our beliefs, values, and even our understanding of reality. As we simplify our lives, people are experiencing an increasing need to get back in touch with what really truly matters.
During times of great change and upheaval, we can sometimes feel lost, confused, and overwhelmed. On one hand, we may feel extremely excited about the new future that’s clearly on the way and on the other, pangs of doubt arise because we are unsure of how we are supposed to show up and contribute to the New Earth.
“Remember that one day, you will die and nothing that you studied, thought of or wished to do, will ever matter. Your only contribution that would matter is how you shared your knowledge, insights, and wisdom through teaching, writing, or other comprehensible means.”
What is most important during our times, is to reconnect with our personal power. To release fear and doubt, and step into confidence and courage. We are celestial beings. The late, great Carl Sagan showed us that we are literally made of stardust. We each have infinite potential, and we come naturally equipped with a deep longing to bring forth our highest self. Take a deep breath and really let this sink in. Feel it deep within your heart. You are infinitely powerful! This is the natural state of all human beings: In deep connection with all that is, and fully able to receive the guidance that we need to be all that we can be.
Many of us struggle with finding meaning. Our days get so packed with responsibilities and distractions that we end up simply feeling swept along by its current, rather than in control of how we spend our time. Some people are ok with doing less meaningful work because they find meaning in other areas of their life. And others are transitioning out of corporate work into becoming self-employed in order to find more meaning in what they do.
“I’d rather fail at something important than succeed at something trivial.”
– Paul Hawken
More and more, we are seeing that Logic and Reason, which have been the driving forces in our modern society, do have their place. However, they are not the supreme rulers by which all decisions should be made. We, humanity are waking up to the fact that the Earth is sending us help in the form of this virus, and that there is much more going on here than meets the eye.
Most importantly, people everywhere are feeling an increasing need for MORE meaning in their lives …
MORE meaningful than their job …
MORE meaningful than a fancy car or an expensive house …
MORE meaningful than Friday nights at the bar – casino – club …
People are feeling a heightened longing to find out the deeper levels and layers of our existence here, as human beings, as creatures of the Earth, as souls seeking our purpose and reason for being. Indeed, it’s often a HUGE life event (like losing your job, going through a relationship breakup, the loss of a family member, or a global pandemic) that catches us unaware and propels us on a course that we hadn’t foreseen or planned for. It’s these life events that serve to give us a wake-up call – an opportunity to expand, grow and mature as a human being.
You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.
– Maya Angelou
It’s at the point of waking-up (when we are clearer and more focused in the moment) that we have the special opportunity of searching for our own personal meaning of life. The meaning of life, or more specifically. the meaning of ‘your life’ is something that we inevitably encounter and discover along the journey of human existence. The sooner you discover it for yourself, the sooner that your life takes on greater depth, satisfaction and reward.
What is One Thing That makes Your Life Worth Living?
Having a connection with a deep meaning and purpose in our life is essential. Of course, many people have not experienced this, have not been looking for it and NOW it’s being forced upon them. Social isolation – being with the ‘self’ without distractions (happening worldwide right now) with global ‘stay at home’ directives in place, COVID-19 is serving as a catalyst for hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of people to slow down and naturally be drawn within.
“He who has a WHY to live for can bear with almost any how.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
We must turn our attention within (to know ourselves) and expand our awareness of our responsible place within the cosmos. We are cosmic citizens first and human citizens second. Life missions are the reasons that make life worth living — and what makes us look forward to pursuing each day. Whenever you take any action, it’s always for a reason. You’re trying to satisfy some sort of need or desire. And when the desire is strong enough, it will get you off your butt to put in the time, energy and effort!
It's Hardly Ever About the Money
Since the 50s, sociologists have been reporting that the desire to work and be productive does not disappear after financial needs are satisfied. This is why the correlation between pay and job satisfaction is almost zero, and why underpaid professionals like teachers or artists are often more satisfied with their jobs than overpaid bankers or lawyers.
“One person with passion is better than 40 people merely interested.”
– E.M. Forster
That is not to say that money does not motivate: It does, but only because of its ability to increase a person’s status or freedom. One study showed that most people would rather take a 5% bonus if their colleagues get none, than a 10% bonus if their colleagues get 30%. And the effect money has on happiness tends to plateau after a moderate salary is reached.
Many attempts to engage employees often backfire. Even though employee engagement is a hot topic, with many organisations carrying out some form of climate survey annually, employees are often cynical about these attempts. They may view them as a marketing strategy and a loosely disguised attempt to raise productivity.
The Four Sources of Meaning
There are four main sources from which we derive meaning in our career: Self, Others, Work Context, and our Spiritual life.
Source #1 – Self
The self, or more accurately, our self-concept, is the thoughts and feelings that we hold about ourselves – which continuously change in response to our experiences. Our self-concept contributes to meaningfulness at work in multiple ways, especially our values and motivation. If we feel our values are being compromised at our workplace, the sense of meaningfulness we derive from work decreases to the point that we are highly likely to consider changing employers.
“The self is made, not given.”
– Barbara Myerhoff
When we are intrinsically motivated we feel a sense of meaning in our work. Motivation is what happens when a particular activity is aligned with our self-concept. For example, if we see ourselves as a leader and we are in a leadership role then this close alignment allows us to see work as an expression of us, and therefore more meaningful. When this alignment is particularly close we may hear someone say ‘I was born to do this!’
Source #2 – Other People
We are social creatures who experience meaning at work through our relationships and interactions with others. There is an old cliché that people join companies and leave managers. This maxim can definitely be extended to leaving co-workers, clients, suppliers or any of the people we interact with on a regular basis. Humans have an inherent need to belong. We desire to identify with and feel part of the organisations we work for. How many times has the highlight of your day been a great interaction you had with someone?
Source #3 – Work Context
The context of our work (as opposed to the work activities) may also provide meaning. Some people enjoy fast-paced busy roles where they have an opportunity to meet targets and multitask, while others prefer a more methodical and measured pace. For others it might be the complexity of the work or perhaps even the risk/precision involved.
Source #4 – Spirit
Having a spiritual connection has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with having trust in the spiritual reality, which exists within and through every living being. We’re all spiritual beings by nature. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. We must turn our attention within (to know ourselves) and expand our awareness of our responsible place within the cosmos. We are cosmic citizens first and human citizens second.
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist.”
– Oscar Wilde
The past few decades has seen an increasing interest in wellbeing practices in the workplace, taking the form of mindfulness training, reflective leadership and giving back. The trend toward organisations as catalysts for social good and contribution back to society is necessary for our planet to thrive. Individually, we derive a sense of meaning when we see how our work contributes to this greater good, to making the world a better place.
Breaking Up Our Routine Makes Way for Inspiration
It isn’t necessarily the achievements that make us happy; it’s a sense that we’re spending our time in a way that leverages our talents and aligns with our passions and values. So, how can we find meaning, especially when we’re caught in the midst of potential panic and uncertainty, with the entire globe having weeks and months ahead of living a completely altered lifestyle? One of the easiest ways to ‘go within’ (which means focusing on your inner environment, rather than your outer one) is to break up and change your daily routine.
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
It’s when we’re no longer on the treadmill of life, focused on the same repetitive tasks, day-in-day-out, that we have an opportunity to rise into our greatness. Yes, routine does help with discipline, which can serve us to keep focused on our goals. However, routine can also tire, bore and no longer inspire us. It can actually hamper our joy of life and self-development.
If you are now in an unusual life situation, consider that you’ve been given a life-line to discover what matters most and what you can do to achieve that. It’s when your daily routine is broken-up that the inspiration rushes in. Have you ever sat at your desk for hours wishing to feel inspired and the moment that you get up, walk outside, feel the sun on your face, and walk out in nature, you instantly feel refreshed and a unique idea pops into your awareness.
“You must capture the heart of a supremely able man before his brain can do its best.”
– Andrew Carnegie
‘Where did that come from?’ you might ask. Well, it came from you. You have all of the answers within. You just need to create the space and time away from your normal routine in order for your answers to make their way into your conscious awareness. Right now, many of our ‘usual’ distractions have been removed. And yet, people are instantly trying to replace their normal distractions with new ‘at home’ distractions in order to stay busy.
Do not fall into this trap.
“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”
– Lucius Annaeus Seneca
It’s when we’re still, quiet, questioning and off the treadmill of life that we can find the amazing wealth of knowledge we all have inside of us. This is when we build up our self-worth and self-love, which then enables us to live productive and creative lives. This is when we discover our Super Powers. Anything you excel at, in part because it’s a talent, and also because you enjoy doing it so you will do an amazing job, is a super power. Your super powers depend on three factors: Passion, Focus, and Strengths. Let’s focus on forging careers and relationships that we’re good at, that we love, that improve us and that add to global peace, prosperity and camaraderie.
4 Tips to Discover Your Super Powers
- Identify Your Top Skills
Think about the skills you currently use at work, at home, and the ones you may have used in the past. Include everything that you do well: writing, problem-solving, persuading, connecting people, helping people reach their goals. Anything that you excel at.
- Highlight the Ones You Feel Passionate About.
Which ones have you done for free in the past? Which ones get you so excited you could easily write a whole blog or book about them? Which ones feel fulfilling, enriching, and maybe even healing when you do them?
- Cross Out the Ones You Have Trouble Focusing On.
If you can barely devote more than an hour to a skill, it is not a Super Power. Just because you are good at something, or it makes you money, is not enough to gain Super Power status. If you have to force yourself to do something, cross it off the list. Find those actions that get you into the flow state – the ones that make you forget to eat and pee.
- Put a Star Next to the Ones that Other People Recognise as Strengths.
For a Super Power to guide your career, it has to be something you excel at. If you love writing but you struggle with communicating your thoughts, this may not be a Super Power—yet. If you’re willing to put in the time, you can change that. Whatever you have highlighted and placed a star next to that isn’t crossed out is a Super Power. You can now leverage this to create meaningful, satisfying work.
How to Leverage Your Super Powers for a Career
The Long Game and the Short Game.
If your Super Power is helping people, your long game might be to become a therapist, councillor, write a book, or run workshops. The goal here isn’t necessarily to dream big—it’s to dream of what feels right for you. It might even mean a pay cut. We often end up spending a lot of money to make ourselves feel better when we are unhappy with our job. Consider that when you spend your time doing something you love, you release the need to buy away your unhappiness.
“You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do,
in order to have what you want.”
– Margaret Young
Your short game is what you need to do to transition into your long game vision. Do you need to save money to take classes? Do you need to create time in your schedule to write? Do you need to email people to get advice? You might not be able to immediately do exactly what will you make you feel fulfilled, but you can start planting seeds to get there. A mountain is conquered one step at a time. Look at your life now. How would you feel if it was exactly the same, with the same people, doing the same things five years from now? …And how would you feel if you were actually living your long game vision? Whatever it is you enjoy, there is every reason to start shaping a life around it now. Every day that passes is a day further away from living the dream.
Do Something Everyday
Forward movement is key. The important thing isn’t to arrive at tomorrow; it’s to keep making progress – no matter how small – and to enjoy the process. Stagnation and procrastination will kill the dream. As long as you’re moving forward, you will get there. Opportunities have a way of evolving and surprising us when we find the courage to consistently take action. Commit to something everyday and the dream is yours!
Use Your Super Powers Now
Even though it may take you time to transition into a more meaningful work situation, you can still incorporate the things you love into your life right now. If what you want to do is help people but you can’t publish a book tomorrow, start a blog. If you want to become a therapist but you know it will take years, volunteer for a hotline. You may even choose to do one small thing each week, like share an uplifting comment on someone’s blog. By using your Super Power in your everydayness, you may open yourself up to professional opportunities. At the very least, you’ll make a positive difference in the world by doing something that makes you feel fulfilled, which raises your vibration.
Be Your Own Super Hero
If you are not the hero of your own story, then you are missing the whole point of your humanity. Find and follow the path that makes sense to you. You may decide that you prefer to earn a living doing something you don’t feel passionate about and then leverage your Super Powers through your hobbies and free time. Do what works for you. The joy and happiness you can bring to every moment is what matters. If you feel like you’re not filling your days in a way that feels purposeful and fulfills you, find the courage to figure out what would and then do something – anything – about it today! The Super Power of all Super Powers is the ability to be true to your authentic self.
“If you organise your life around your passion, you can turn your passion into your story and then turn your story into something bigger―something that matters.” – Blake Mycoskie
5 Key Questions to Find Meaningful Work
- Which five words best describe you?
Self-Awareness, as always, is the critical first step in understanding who you are and what you value. You need to look inward before seeking solutions outside yourself. Describing yourself this way may be trickier than you first think. However, this powerful exercise is totally worth it because it helps to gain greater clarity about your core values, strengths and gifts.
- What can’t you stop yourself from doing?
We all have behaviours that we just do. In fact, some behaviours we can’t seem to stop ourselves from doing. For example, you may not be able to stop yourself from mentally rearranging a room when you walk into it for the first time. Or perhaps you mentally restyle people you see walking down the street. You just do it automatically — and it’s fun. Understanding your natural talents is an important piece of data that will prove useful when evaluating future opportunities.
- What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
Career change, by its very nature, is often scary. As a result, we tend to avoid pursuing the type of work we really want to do and choose a safe path instead, even when it’s far less satisfying. That’s exactly why this question is so powerful. It gives you, at least temporarily, permission to suspend your fears and acknowledge your dreams. When you do this, an interesting thing happens: you focus less on failure and more on alternative ways to achieve your goals.
- What’s one small thing you can do today to move yourself forward?
Changing careers takes courage, work, determination and persistence. There are hundreds of decisions – small and large – that need to be made. It can feel like an overwhelming process that often results in “analysis paralysis” and stagnation. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Even when you’re not fully certain about what’s next, there are always some steps you can take to move forward. For example, if you are thinking about shifting into a new field, you can take a relevant class, read an industry e-newsletter or connect with someone for an informational interview.
“Do not let your grand ambitions stand in the way of small but meaningful accomplishments.”
– Bryant H. McGill
What most people don’t realise is that passion rarely happens in a vacuum. Passion builds from action. The truth is, you can’t really know how you feel about an activity until you actually do it. So, even if you can’t yet apply for a job in a different field, figure out a way to take small and consistent steps forward. And if you can’t commit to doing at least one small thing, take that as a warning sign that you haven’t yet found the right direction.
- If you knew you only had 5 years left to live, what would you do differently?
Now let’s create some urgency. This question forces you to zero in on what’s most important in your life: your values, priorities and the legacy you wish to leave. Five years is a long-enough time frame to think beyond the bucket list trips and “time spent with family” that most people say they’d choose if given just a few months to live. Use this exercise as motivation to make the changes you need in order to create a more meaningful life today.
How to Bring More Meaning into Your Current 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. Here are some things that you can do to build a personal and work environment that fosters more meaningful work.
The more we do that is in alignment with our deepest essence – our true self who resides in the heart — the happier we feel. Doing things that our heart isn’t into really drains us. Whereas, when we do what we love, it gives us energy. Consider doing something creative today to raise your vibration. Art is the language of the soul. Put on some music and draw, paint, or write as a form of meditation to get you in the zone.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
– Howard Thurman
Many don’t dare to express themselves for fear it won’t be ‘good enough’. Art is for no one but you. When we view it through the head, we have lost the point. An ‘art critic’ is an oxymoronic concept – art is always subjective as our soul responds to the expressed heart of a fellow being. It doesn’t take long to find a link between Positive Psychology and creativity, and the body of research connecting well-being and creativity is constantly growing.
More specifically, it can be viewed as a continuum, from practical creativity, which we are all likely to experience on a daily basis, to once-in-a-lifetime achievements, usually reserved for those with true mastery of their chosen field. Creativity requires a certain state of mind. Barbara Fredrickson points out, in her well-known broaden-and-build theory that an increase in positive emotions leads to a broader thought-action repertoire. This ultimately leads to more creative, flexible, integrative and open thinking patterns, paving the way to meaning. 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?
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, do your best to find new ways of doing it. Perhaps you can make a game out of it. Do anything in your power to see things from a new perspective as often as possible.
Come into Alignment!
Avoid tasks and projects that conflict with your inherent values like the plague. If you are an animal-rights activist, you could never find meaning in working on a project that promotes hunting. Only accept those tasks that will not violate your intrinsic values. Do not compromise yourself – you’re all you’ve got!
Escape the Micro-Manager!
No one, no matter how patient and understanding they are, can enjoy the results and process of their work if somebody is nagging and breathing down their neck all of the time. It’s difficult to find meaning in something when someone else is telling you what to do and, most importantly, how to do it. That would be following someone else’s instructions in accordance with their vision.
Don’t Get Stuck!
When you feel that your work has lost its meaning, consider that it might be 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. Make your decisions based on what you love, not on what you fear. Take a minute to think about what you would like to do next and start making steps in that direction.
Experiencing meaningful work may not come naturally in your particular profession. This means you will need a shift in mindset to find meaning in what you do. Write down some ways in which your work is helping other people.
Everything Counts! Everything Matters!
Even if you’re not changing the world directly, you will 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, affects the collective, and may even have a huge impact on the lives of other people further down the track. It’s called the Butterfly Effect.
“You can have anything you want – if you want it badly enough. You can be anything you want to be, do anything you set out to accomplish if you hold to that desire with singleness of purpose.”
– William Adams
Imagine yourself working as a Car Park 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… However, this is only because you are too attached to your perspective. In reality, you are much more muchier. You are the person who guards over the safety of people and their cars. You are the one who ensures the car park is a safe place for women to walk through at night. Thanks to you, mothers get home to their children and husbands home to their wives. With this simple change in perspective, your work is suddenly more meaningful.
“Lean forward into your life. Begin each day as if it were on purpose.”
– Mary Anne Radmacher