Perfect jobs that provide meaning and satisfaction 24/7 might well be illusory. Even dream jobs can become dreary or stressful or appear to lack meaning, and happiness, as a result, becomes elusive.
So how can you find meaning in your job and work happily on a consistent basis?
It is possible to work happily and find meaning in your own job if you incorporate a few key principles and actions into your mind map.
1. Don’t take work for granted
There is an old Greek proverb that says: “How do you get a man to appreciate his donkey?” Answer: “By taking it away!”
With a world population that’s growing at an alarming rate, anyone who does have a job really should be grateful for their employment, because many people would like to have paid work, but can’t find any.
So … be grateful for your job.
2. Understand your values
Work can only be really meaningful if it’s part of your life’s purpose and your life’s purpose will most likely be aligned with your values.
Become clear about your values because they will help you find happiness in your job.
So how do you clarify your values?
Make a list of the 5 things that are most important in your life – Think about things like; family, friends, spirituality, money, career, work/life balance. Then ask yourself how your job is serving those values, and write down the answers.
Once you understand how your life values are being met at work, you’ll feel more aligned with your job.
3. Turn your dreams into reality
If you have a grand dream about your career–maybe you want a big promotion, or want to work for yourself– find ways of turning the dream into reality. You might have to work harder than anyone else to make it happen, but it might ultimately give you the chance to do what you want to do and so work happily in the long run.
Make a list of small steps that can be taken to move you closer to your dream, and commit to doing one of these things each day. These steps can be as small as “Find one website related to my dream job and read everything on it.” or “Sign up for an email newsletter related to my ideal industry.” Do one thing each day that will move you closer to your dream. You’ll be surprised how small but consistent actions can quickly move you closer to achieving your big ideas.
4. Understand why you work
If you are to be happy at work you need to understand your attitude and reasons for working. There has to be a reason for doing things otherwise you’ll never get out of bed in the morning. Certainly money is a driving force, but there should be other reasons that you keep getting up and getting yourself out the door to go to work.
So what’s important to you? Answer the following to find out:
- Do you work for the challenge, or perhaps to gain a sense of achievement?
- Do you want to get out of the house to be amongst other people?
- Do you want to work for yourself?
- Do you want to be highly successful in your chosen field?
- Do you want to help others?
- Do you want to be creative?
Look at the questions you answered “yes” to. Does your current job fulfill these needs and desires? If not, what job would?
5. Place value on the work that you do
The work you do will invariably touch the lives of others in some positive way – an important fact to realize.
Work becomes more meaningful when it makes a contribution to our own lives and to the lives of others.
Every job has intrinsic meaning. It doesn’t matter what you do. Not only does it give you an income, but it will impact other people or the world we live in.
How does the work you do make a difference to other people in a positive way? How would it impact others if you stopped doing what you do? Write this down and acknowledge that your work is purposeful and commit to valuing the work you do.
What you do is useful and if you acknowledge that, then you will give your working hours more meaning.
4. Understand your job’s purpose
Every job has a purpose. Acknowledging this can help you to feel good about what you do.
List 3 of the more important tasks you are employed to carry out and then write down why it’s necessary to do them well.
Set goals to do these tasks more effectively and you’ll achieve more, plus you’ll gain additional respect from your colleagues and your employer, too.
Having this clear purpose shines the light on how you should spend your time, and you’ll find yourself focusing on what’s important.
5. Don’t major in the minor
Wasting time on unimportant tasks is futile and leads to dissatisfaction.
Many people work 10 – 12 hour days and still don’t seem to get anything done.
So major in the major and eliminate anything that wastes time or isn’t important in your work day. Set yourself goals to complete the important tasks that need doing, rather than focusing on bits and pieces. Make a to-do list and check things off as you go along. This will keep you organized and on-task, and you’ll be surprised at how satisfying it is to make those check marks.
6. Get real about what you want
There are obvious attractions for working, and earning money is probably top of the list, but unless your underlying wants and needs are also met by going out to work, then you’re unlikely to be happy on a day to day basis.
So beyond just earning money think about what you want work to deliver.
- Is job security important to you?
- Would flexible- time working arrangements suit you better?
- Do you want a promotion or a pay raise?
- Would you like training opportunities to develop your skills?
- Is a pension plan important to you or would a sports or recreation club at work make you happier?
- Would working from home be the right option for you?
Look at your “yes” answers. Is your current job meeting these needs? If not, it’s time to talk to your boss. If that doesn’t get you anywhere, it’s time to start planning for a career change.
Having your subsidiary needs met is important to a sense of contentment at work and working happily.
7. Have the right attitude
Having a good attitude at work is immensely powerful and it’s a precursor to being happy and successful in your job. Not everyone is born with a great attitude; many people are gloomy or negative, or they think that it’s all about them and their wonderful CV.
A good attitude is something that everyone can work on and improve with practice and mindfulness. Learning good interpersonal skills, in particular, is integral to your happiness at work. If you can learn to consider others in a consistent way, they will respond in kind, and your work will be much more satisfying.
- Make people feel good about themselves – always find something nice to say.
- Ask questions about your colleagues and be interested in them.
- Be respectful, and be thankful for any advice or help you’re given.
- Be helpful.
- Learn to compromise.
- Try to be cheery because cheeriness begets cheeriness.
So c’mon. Smile! Work happily and find meaning in your job. You’re worth it!
I’d like to thank and acknowledge the following resources:
Life Coaching for Work by Eileen Mulligan (Judy Piatkus [Publishers] Limited 2000)
Why People Fail by Siimon Reynolds (Penguin Books 2010)
The Work We Were Born To Do by Nick Williams (Element Books Limited 1999)