Finding meaning in the work we do is hard-wired into our DNA. For Gen-X’ers, some of us have this epiphany in the form of a mid-life crisis. Millennials are born with a mid-life crisis, so they’ve got the advantage of meaning and purpose focus right out of the gate, and I think the world is better because of it.
Bottom line, most of us end up on the quest for meaningful work.
Cancer research is meaningful work. Fighting civil rights injustices is meaningful work. Educating children is meaningful work.
But what if you make widgets? Can you find meaning in making widgets when it’s not altruistic at its core? I don’t know. But I do know you can find meaning and purpose in HOW you show up to make those widgets.
While on our quest to find purposeful work, let’s not overlook the meaning that can be found right in front of us in HOW we show up for work.
I want to share two personal, and hopefully inspirational examples that had a profound impact on me.
“Maybe finance just isn’t for you.”
One of the most pivotal moments in my life happened at work, and it changed the trajectory of my career and my life in the most fantastic way. I began my career as a CPA and was advancing quite nicely. I didn’t love the work, and I seemed to find myself relating better to the sales and marketing teams in ways that were most unnatural for a typical CPA.
One day, I was talking with Dave, the Controller, about how we needed to be more customer-centric and spend more money on product development. Dave said, “Maybe finance just isn’t for you. Maybe you should be in marketing.”
And my world changed.
He didn’t disparagingly say this. He was genuinely considering where my passions seemed to be and consequently made a statement that changed my life.
Dave’s words gave me “permission” to consider a career move I’d never thought about before. With Dave’s help, I made a transition to Product Development, and I never looked back. (Thanks, Dave!)
“You make the world a better place.”
This story is very recent, and it’s the inspiration for this post. One Saturday afternoon, I received an unexpected delivery from UPS. One of my clients, Jennifer, sent me a care package with the most thoughtful note about how happy she was with the work I’d done and how much she appreciated working with me. She concluded the note with, “You make the world a better place.”
W H A T?
I’m not going to lie. I cried a little bit. Ok, maybe more.
Jennifer didn’t have to go out of her way to show her appreciation. She’s a rock-star client, which is enough for me. But she chose to go above and beyond and be incredibly intentional in HOW she worked.
Her belief in me and encouraging words came precisely when I needed them and gave me the push I needed to start this huge project I’d been considering. I am so grateful! (Thank you, Jennifer!)
Idea into Action:
- Ask a question. How do you see yourself having a positive impact on the world?
- Translate that into your daily life. How might you look for opportunities to have that impact on those around you at work?
- Set visible reminders. Post a sticky note on your computer to remind you to look for opportunities to have the kind of impact you want to have.
- Set a daily reminder. Set a recurring appointment first thing in the morning that reminds you to look for ways to live out your purpose while you’re working to pay your bills.
How we show up for work matters. Don’t underestimate the power you possess in how you do your work every day.
Sure it would be awesome to be changing the world for a living; but until then, don’t miss the opportunities to change the world of someone right in front of you. Now THAT is meaningful work.
Please share your thoughts with me on this, and if you’ve found this information helpful, you can help me get the word out by using the links provided and sharing it with a colleague. Thanks!
Nice article, sounds like you!
Andrew, thank you so much for those kind words! You know I’m grateful for all of your support and encouragement!
Great article Adriana!