Stop Expecting Meaning from Work

Expecting work to give us meaning is asking a lot from work, at any stage. At what point did we decide that work owed us that, just for showing up? It’s worth noting that in a report on the UK study in Forbes

, one of the study’s authors states that “we think there is a two-way relationship between our experiences and life seeming worthwhile. People who are socially engaged and healthy may rate their activities as more meaningful, while at the same time this sense of meaning may contribute to more engagement, better mental health, less loneliness and so on.” In other words, while healthier, engaged activities may give our lives greater meaning, it’s just as likely that seeing life as meaningful will result in healthier, more engaged activities. It’s an attitude and a choice.

A basic tenet of systems thinking is understanding that our actions are always part of a greater whole, and may be influenced by, or have an influence on, other people’s actions and behaviors. From an organizational standpoint, this means that everyone throughout the organization must understand how his or her role and work contributes to the overarching mission of the organization.

As a new professional, you can use this principle to give your work greater meaning and purpose, even when it feels like it is giving you none. For example, if you’re spending your days filling out and maintaining spreadsheets, instead of viewing this as a mindless task that is beneath you, think about how those spreadsheets and that data is enabling others to keep the organization moving forward. Or, if you are answering phones as a front desk receptionist, think of yourself as the chief public relations officer of the organization, who shapes the first and most lasting impression that every customer or client has of the organization.