Explore Meaningful Work


Explore meaningful work to realize more of your potential and build a new way of living and working in community.

My clients still struggle to support their search for meaningful work, which is becoming more and more openly desired in this country. Media references call us out to work with passion. Yet, we live in a culture still profoundly affected by the ideology of Adam Smith, highlighted in Barry Schwartz’s TED book, “Why We Work,” 2015, which promotes work as a merely paid experience. As the industrial revolution took off, tasks were broken down into smaller and smaller increments to facilitate tighter control over the workforce. Productivity climbed, meaningful engagement dropped. Work became boring; it was deemed that workers needed to be prodded and incentivized in order to accomplish anything.

But human beings want more from work than to be told what to do, how to do it and how long to take doing it. Why? To feel alive, creative, decisive, effective, connected to our selves and what matters during the weekday. Gallop’s recent research into the reasons people work sights meaning, creativity, autonomy, recognition, creating a sense of mastery and in-depth connection with others.

It is in our nature to give, to want responsibility, challenge, to be unique and autonomous, quiet at times, to make decisions and connect with others in purposeful ways, to help make a difference. I have heard this from clients every hour for the past thirty-five years.

As we emerge from Adam Smith’s blessing and curse: the industrial age brought us many things but we need much more than a better, more efficient way to produce bigger stuff as a global society now. We need ways to get along, do what matters and stop shooting each other.

Take a little time to figure out what you really want from your job and experience more meaning and purpose. Find yourself more in control, using your brain, engaged, relating authentically, having considerable fun with your colleagues and customers at work and outside of work.

Need encouragement to make something great happen in your work life and overcome the self-doubt that it’s not ok to want career satisfaction? A job integrated with your lifestyle and deeper values. Connect with mentors, friends, a career counselor, academic advisor at a near by community college or university alumni career center. Get validation, support, and answers. Begin exploring what deeply matters inside and out. The quality of your life and the lives of others depend upon it, in some way. Seriously. What’s going on in the world that you care about most these days?

Give this some thought, in spite of your busy life. Make the content of these feelings and intuition a priority; identify smallish action steps, reflect on your actions, or non-actions, and consider further doable steps. Make a plan with your calendar to follow through. Research your questions and concerns in a way that’s achievable. Experiment to the fullest, persistently. Dare yourself to problem solve around whatever is in your way. Trust the efforts you extend on behalf of your self, family, friends, neighbors and co-workers will matter and ultimately make a difference.

A quote from Bruce Springsteen:

“I understand that it’s the music that keeps me alive….That’s my lifeblood. And to give that up for, like, the TV, the cars, the houses–that’s not the American dream. That’s the booby prize, in the end. Those are the booby prizes. And if you fall for them–if, when you achieve them, you believe that this is the end in and of itself—then you’ve been suckered in. Because those are the consolation prizes, if you’re not careful, for selling yourself out, or letting the best of yourself slip away. So you gotta be vigilant. You gotta carry the idea you began with further. And you gotta hope that you’re headed for higher ground.”


Originally posted on Career Transition: The Inside Job