Tag Archives: meaning

The Key to Shedding Apathy and Reengaging

https://static.pexels.com/photos/36785/soldier-military-uniform-american.jpgPeople sometimes ask me why my work is important.  While I’m normally pretty clear on the impact of the work I do, lately I’ve been questioning it.  Beaten down by daily news of a divided country, threats of war, mass shootings, and natural disasters, it’s hard to think that anything I do makes a difference.  I’m not alone in this thinking.  I run across it with others all the time.

To stay engaged, I have to keep remembering why I do what I do.  I consult, speak, and coach to help people—to help individuals be more successful and happy in their lives and to help organizations be more successful by improving the performance of their people.  No matter what goes on in the world around us, making the world a better place—even at a small level—is important, and that’s what keeps me going.

We all are making the world a better place in one way or another.  The key is to figure out what your impact is and not lose sight of it.

To keep sight of how you are making the world a better place, look at the ways in which you impact the world, either through your work, your organization’s products or services, or in your life outside of work.  Here are some things to consider.

https://static.pexels.com/photos/196652/pexels-photo-196652.jpegHow does your work itself impact the world? Here are some examples of how people’s work positively impacts the world.

  • You provide a service that helps people, like performing surgery to unblock arteries.
  • You provide a service that makes people happier, like teaching meditation to help people relax or doing standup comedy to make people laugh.
  • You increase human knowledge, like conducting scientific research to find cures for diseases or look for life on neighboring planets.
  • You help the earth, like by developing sustainable farming practices or delivering farm-to-table dining.

Even if you work in a seemingly meaningless corporate or government bureaucracy, you still have the ability to make a positive impact in your daily life.  Think about the power you have to improve someone’s day by simply giving them a smile or asking them how their day is going, or by helping them with a task.  You can bring meaning to any job.

https://static.pexels.com/photos/212286/pexels-photo-212286.jpegIf you don’t see how your role impacts people or the world in a significant way, what you do may be part of a bigger organization that has positive impact. How does your organization improve the world?

  • Your organization provides a service that helps people, like healthcare.
  • Your organization provides a service that makes people happier, like entertainment.
  • Your organization increase human knowledge, like through scientific research.
  • Your organization helps the planet, like by developing sustainable energy.

I consulted for one pharmaceutical company that reminded its employees daily that the mission of the company was to save lives.  The company researched, developed, and sold products to manage diabetes and to manage weight loss.  Every single employee at the company was helping to fulfill that mission, whether they were a scientist, an administration assistant, a food service worker, or member of the janitorial staff.  Every job was necessary to save lives.

https://static.pexels.com/photos/302083/pexels-photo-302083.jpegPerhaps your work isn’t your contribution to the world. Rather, you use work as a vehicle to do other things that make an impact.  How do you make an impact on the world through your family, friends, or activities?

  • You raise children or grandchildren or take care of other family members who need it.
  • You give advice and companionship to friends.
  • You volunteer at an animal shelter, school, veterans’ association, museum, or some non-profit organization that is helping make the world a better place.
  • You write, create art, or perform and share your talent with others.
  • You vote.

These are only a few examples of the good that people do and the impact that people have on the world.  Yours may be big or small, but every bit counts.  In fact, these are precisely the things that do count when there is so much negativity that is outside of our control.

How Meaningful Is Your Work?

meaning of life cartoonHow meaningful is your work? How meaningful do you want it to be? In a recent Gallup poll, 70% of people said their work was not meaningful. On the one hand, that number is alarming. Seventy percent of workers spend half of their waking hours doing something that brings no meaning. On the other hand, should our work be meaningful?

At a very minimum, our work is meaningful because, for most of us, it enables us to feed, clothe, and house us and our families. For many of us, it gives us purpose and focus. We have to get up in the morning and be somewhere and do something. Without that, we often become aimless and dissatisfied.

And then there’s the question of whether we live to work or work tomeaning of life cartoon 2 live. Some say it’s a generational thing—that Baby Boomers live to work while Millennials work to live. I actually don’t see it that way. Yes, Millennials want to have more balance in their lives. However, Millennials are increasingly demanding that their jobs have meaning and that their companies are socially responsible. In this sense, their jobs bring greater meaning, doing something that reaches beyond themselves.

I ask you to think about your work—deeply—and contemplate how much meaning it really does have. I think all of our work has meaning in one way or another. A bus driver enables people to get places. A web designer helps people communicate messages. A word processor may even help save lives, especially if he or she works for a company that builds medical devices, or a shipping company that delivers life-saving equipment to hospitals, or a law firm that litigates tort law, or a school department that educates children and keeps them off the streets.

I watch the elderly people in my neighborhood at the local grocery store some days. For some folks, getting dressed for an outing and walking into a store are big accomplishments. Interacting with the store clerk may be the only social interaction they have that day. A store clerk who is cordial, maybe even chatty or helpful, may bring deeper meaning into a person’s life than the clerk could even imagine.

meaning making illustrationThe meaning is there. You just have to find it. You don’t have to be a world-renown leader to have an impact on the world or to have meaning in your work. This is especially important for young people to understand to take the pressure off of “achieving greatness” at the expense of health and happiness. For the rest of us, dig deep and find the meaning that is already there.