The world experienced a global shutdown in 2020. When it reopened, we went back to our daily routines and obligations, but something was different. We could all sense a subtle yet profound shift had taken place, but we struggled to articulate exactly what it was. Since then, this has been simply accepted as the “new normal.”
The change we experienced was a sudden vacuum of purpose, and it impacted our professional lives the most. For many, the ability to approach daily life and work with meaning was nonexistent. It felt as though the traditional framework that supported our aspirations, success, and self-worth had eroded, leaving behind a void. The tremors of global job insecurity, coupled with the repetitive rhythm of remote work, only amplified this sense of aimlessness.
Now, the world faces a crisis unlike anything we’ve seen before: a crisis of purpose. It’s created a tide of uncertainty that has many questioning the value of work and the sustainability of the path ahead. Yet, within these uncertain times lies a silver lining of rediscovery, ready to reignite our lives by approaching our everyday work with meaning.
5 Ways to Work with Meaning
Here are five ways that allow us to navigate this terrain and infuse our work with meaning and a rekindled sense of purpose.
1. Rediscover Why
Professional fulfillment requires aligning your job with your values, interests, and goals. It starts by understanding what matters most to you, like teamwork, innovation, or contributing to a greater cause. Next, see how these values fit your current role, and speak with your leader or manager about seeking ways to incorporate them into your day-to-day. Focusing on the meaningful aspects of your job and, if necessary, acquiring skills to improve your job performance can significantly increase overall job satisfaction. Additionally, recognize your work’s impact on others and the broader organization. Seeing the ripple effect of your contributions can make your work feel more meaningful than just a paycheck.
2. Establish Social Connections
Fostering genuine connections with colleagues and participating in team projects can add purpose to your workday. Also, engage in mentorship—as a mentor or mentee—because exchanging knowledge and experience is effective in finding or cultivating purpose. This can help make your professional life a platform for learning, sharing, and growing together.
Improved mental, emotional, and social health, all of which affect performance, can be accomplished through strengthening interpersonal relationships.
3. Practice Mindfulness
Incorporating mindfulness techniques into your daily routine can help you connect with a deeper purpose. Reflect on your day, celebrate small victories, and learn from challenges and failures. This keeps you grounded and allows for a positive outlook, helping you appreciate your job and the progress you’re making, no matter how small.
Starting the day with some deep breathing exercises has been a lifesaver for me. The daily routine of sitting quietly before the rest of the world awakens and giving myself the gift of paying attention to my breath helps me find my bearings. The Wim Hof Method is one of my favorite breath-work exercises.
4. Sustainable Goals
Setting long-term goals that reflect your values can significantly contribute to your sense of purpose. It’s important that these goals are realistic and achievable, yet challenging enough to propel you forward. Aligning goals with personal and professional growth creates a roadmap that guides your career and brings you a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. This way, you’re moving towards meaningful milestones that resonate with what you stand for.
Although setting goals is just half the battle, thinking about your future and setting inspiring goals that excite you are the fuel to keep going when adversity strikes. The day we stop dreaming, setting inspiring goals, and creating a compelling vision for the future is the day we lose hope.
5. Serve Others and the Community
Volunteering through your organization can open new paths to cultivating purpose in your life. Contributing to a cause greater than ourselves can help us discover a layer of meaning and satisfaction that may have gone unnoticed. Whether it’s a one-time event or an ongoing initiative, altruistic endeavors can add dimension to your job and foster an environment where you and your colleagues make a collective impact felt far beyond the confines of the workplace.
Outside of community service, there is great power in showing up every day with the intention of making an impact and being of service to others without expecting anything in return. This doesn’t have to be a monumental act; rather, it should serve as an inspiring symbol of optimism for those in your vicinity. Oftentimes, the smallest act of kindness can have the greatest effect when it comes from a genuine place in one’s heart.
Remember, work is not merely a means to an end; it’s a space to express your values, contribute to shared goals, and rediscover your deeper purpose. By incorporating the practices discussed, like aligning our work and values, understanding our impact, and fostering connections, we can end this epidemic of meaninglessness and return a sense of direction to our lives. It all comes down to actively seeking ways to approach our work with meaning, rather than just another routine.