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4 ways to find meaning in your job

Posted August 18

We don’t always get the dream job we want. But that doesn't mean you can't find meaning in the work you are doing.

Before you confuse finding meaning with finding happiness, know that the two are not the same. A recent Stanford research project found that almost 400 Americans, when asked if they thought their lives were happy and/or meaningful, associated happiness with “what one gets from others” and meaning with what they gave and sacrificed for others, according to fastcompany.com.

A distinction to keep in mind as you consider these four tips to infuse more meaning into your work life.

1. It’s not about the money

“There is no income level at which people are not desperate for meaning,” David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, told The Atlantic.

That said, blue-collar workers could be more satisfied with their jobs than higher-paying white-collar workers because it’s easier for them to appreciate their accomplishments, an article in Time.com noted. Most office work is digitized and therefore hard to appreciate as a product, the article continued.

Furthermore, most companies use what a person earns for the company as a measure of value. But a narrow focus on this figure detracts from a “sense of a deeper purpose in work,” Time noted.

Look for what your job provides for you besides a paycheck, Time stated.

2. Redefine what’s meaningful

Most of us aren’t doing work that’s as altruistic as helping the poor or saving lives, so you’ll have to find a way that says your job is meaningful to you, monster.com noted.

Your meaning could be as simple as providing for your family, or maybe you’ve found happiness acting as leader to other employees, it continued. Or you might be able to find a way to weave in something you’re enthusiastic about into your workplace. Monster.com gave the example of setting up a company recycling program if you’re avid about the environment.

“Purpose can be found in the simple moments of life,” and that moment can be as small as holding a door open because you want to help out, themuse.com noted.

And remember that searching for meaning isn’t a one-off, but a lifelong process. The purpose you find in providing for your children may end once your children are grown and supporting themselves in their careers, Monster.com said.

3. Be social at work

Find a sense of community and belonging at your place of work, hbr.org advised. It can “complement or even be a substitute to” other communities in your life.

“In a society where people increasingly are bowling alone, people crave a place where they can forge friendships and experience a sense of community,” hbr.org noted.

Themuse.com suggested never leaving a room until you do something “to contribute, make a difference, or leave it better than when you entered.”

Through giving insight, a compliment or a friendly ear, you can find purpose. And if you can find purpose in just a room, “imagine what kind of difference you can make throughout the next week, the next month, or the next year,” it continued.

4. Remember, you have a life outside of work

If the job pays well enough, you probably don’t want to quit just because you struggle finding meaning through your work. Instead, find something outside of work that gives you purpose, such as volunteering or tutoring, Time.com advised.

“You need to balance your life portfolio between four things,” Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, told The Atlantic. “Faith, family, community and work.”

Otherwise, you’ll wind up with “an unbalance portfolio,” Brooks said.

Email: smanderson@deseretnews.com, Twitter: @Sarahsonofander.

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