4 Keys To Finding Meaning And Purpose In Your Work

Open Road Films

The average person will spend 45 years of their life working. That’s a lot of time dedicated to a job. Those years can be full of joy or bitterness. Unfortunately, it seems more people hate their jobs than love them. Gallup polled 25 million employees in 189 different countries and revealed that only 13 percent of workers were happy with their jobs.

The study showed that people lacked a sense of meaning and purpose in their work. For those who felt empty and disengaged, these four keys areas were found to be lacking:

1. Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation comes from recognizing intrinsic value — that something possesses worth independent of anything else. Your work is no longer a means to an end, but rather an end in and of itself.

Find work that gives you a sense of satisfaction, regardless of the outcome, and regardless of external factors. Ask yourself this question: “If nobody recognized my work, would I still find joy in doing it?”

An athlete must find as much joy in competing in front of nobody, as she does in front of thousands; the entrepreneur should be driven whether his idea meets success or failure. The key is finding intrinsic value and motivation in your work. It’s about enjoying the process, not just the product.

2. Extrinsic Motivation

On the other side of the coin, value and motivation need to be found beyond the work. This can be found in a sense of contribution to one’s family, friends, or community. Humans are altruistic by nature; connecting generosity to your work will create meaning.

It’s gotta be more than just the bottom line. Einstein said it well, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” Seek out meaningful relationships. Think through who is benefiting as a result of your work. Making a difference is meaningful.

3. Personal Agency

Agency is defined as: action or intervention to produce a particular effect. Meaningful work is synonymous with having personal agency. That means being active rather than passive, being able to voice your opinion, and feeling like you’re a contributing factor to the big picture.

Even in an entry-level position, agency can be created through communication with your manager to maximize your role. Speak up whenever you are given an opportunity. Don’t be afraid of being assertive and making requests.

4. Measurable Goals

Having goals allows for growth, change, and iteration in life. We often have big long-term goals, but we forget about the small goals. Having both is essential for injecting meaning into your work. You should be able to look back on the past week, month, and year, and find joy in how you’ve progressed and evolved.

And just as important as having goals is consciously celebrating them. The brain releases dopamine during moments of celebration to reinforce and motivate your successful actions. Your goals reflect what you’re passionate about, and that’s where meaning is found.

If you’ve been feeling empty about your work, measure yourself up with these four key points. Whether you switch careers or remain where you are, they will remain essential for finding meaning in your work.