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Tips to Find Meaning and Happiness at Work

In the grand tapestry of life, work threads its way through our days, weaving in and out of our waking hours. After all, we spend a whopping one-third of our lives at work, so shouldn't we strive to find meaning and happiness in what we do? Absolutely! The quest to find meaning in our work is more than just a lofty ideal—it's a fundamental part of our human experience. It's about transforming the mundane into the magical, the ordinary into the extraordinary, and the daily grind into a delightful dance. So, buckle up, dear reader, as we embark on this exciting journey to find meaning and sprinkle a dash of happiness in our work lives. Let's face it; when we find meaning in our work, we don't just clock in and clock out—we thrive, we grow, and we truly shine!

Employee Engagement Correlates Happiness

Now, let's dive a little deeper into the world of work. You see, there's this thing called employee engagement, and it's a big deal. According to the gurus over at Gallup, employee engagement is all about the involvement and enthusiasm of employees in both their work and workplace. It's like a barometer for the workplace, giving us clues about how employees are feeling, growing, and thinking about their jobs.

Here's the kicker: a mere 20% of employees worldwide are truly engaged. That's right, only one in five people are genuinely excited and invested in their work. Now, you might be thinking, "Why does this matter?" Well, here's the scoop: those who are engaged are typically far happier than their coworkers who are not.

So, when we talk about the quest to find meaning in our work, we're also talking about boosting this engagement. We're talking about transforming that 20% into a much larger number. We want to be passionately engaged, happier, and make our workplaces happier too. Who doesn't want to be a part of that kind of magic, rather than dreading going to work each day?

Smiling woman find meaning at work

How to Find Meaning in Work

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of how to find meaning in work. The first six tips come from a guy who knows a thing or two about happiness—Arthur Brooks, a happiness scientist and writer for the Atlantic. The following tips are a mix of research-backed advice and a dash of my personal wisdom. So, let's dive in!

1. Understanding Your Values:

Your values are like your personal compass, guiding you toward what truly matters to you. When your work aligns with these values, it’s like hitting the jackpot of job satisfaction. It’s not just about earning a paycheck; it’s about contributing to something that resonates with your core beliefs. I highly recommend identifying a core value of yours that you share with the company and using that as your work compass.

2. Serving Others:

There’s something incredibly fulfilling about serving others. It could be helping a customer, mentoring a colleague, or creating a product that makes someone’s life easier. When we serve others, we’re not just doing our jobs — we’re positively impacting the world. In an inspiring Atlantic article, they discussed a “study of hospital custodial workers where some defined their job as, say, cleaning the floor, while others described it as creating a safe environment for patients. ‘If your attitude is about that service, you just have a happier job and a more meaningful job,’ Brooks said.” It makes sense, doesn’t it?

3. Understanding Why You Work:

When you understand why you work, you can find more joy and meaning in what you do. So, I encourage you to ask yourself, beyond the paycheck, why do you work? Is it the challenge? The opportunity to learn and grow? The chance to collaborate with others? To provide a good life for your children? To make a difference in your community? Overall, it is vital to determine the driving force for why you work.

4. Balancing Work and Life:

Work is essential, but it’s not everything. Finding a balance between work and other aspects of life — like family, hobbies, and self-care — is crucial for overall happiness. Younger generations have come to realize that punching in and out each day isn’t the be-all-end-all of life, nor is it how we should define our world. We are more than our work, so finding a balance is vital. When work is in harmony with the rest of your life, it becomes a meaningful part of a fulfilling whole.

5. Recognizing Meaningful Moments:

Even in the most routine jobs, there are moments of meaning. It could be a thank you from a customer, a breakthrough in a project, or a fun conversation with a coworker. Recognizing these moments can help you find joy and meaning in your everyday work.

For example, I recently visited my dermatologist and was reminded of an experience I had years ago. After a frustrating encounter with my insurance company, I wrote a note of appreciation along with a Starbucks gift card for the nurse who helped me. Fast forward to my recent appointment, and the doctor informed me that the nurse still had the note pinned to her corkboard after all these years — YES, years later! It was a blip, a small moment in the fabric of time, but it held meaning for years, and she took the time and effort to recognize and appreciate it. It brings me such joy to think that she may have smiled every time she looked at that note.

6. Being Conscious of Life Stages:

Our careers aren’t static — they evolve with us as we move through different stages of life. Being aware of this can help us make career choices that bring us happiness and fulfillment at each stage. What may work for us in our 20s may need to evolve in our 30s as other components of life become a priority — and so on throughout the decades. It is okay to evolve, change, and adjust your work choices as you enjoy life’s journey.

7. Finding Personal Alignment with the Problem You’re Solving:

When the problem you’re solving at work aligns with your personal interests or passions, work becomes more than just a job — it becomes a mission. This alignment can fuel your motivation and make your work feel meaningful. I recommend taking the initiative to recognize what lights your hair on fire at work and ask for more of it. If you enjoy doing it, for whatever reason, try to make it a larger part of your day.

8. Taking a More Human Approach:

Work isn’t just about tasks and targets — it’s about people. Taking a more human approach to work — like building relationships, empathizing with others, and nurturing a positive work culture — can make work a more enjoyable and meaningful experience. Remember, behavioral contagions can make a huge difference in your work experience — so try to be an epicenter for happiness.

Find Meaning Each Day

There you have it, folks! Eight sparkling tips to help you find meaning in your work and transform your workdays from mundane to magical. Remember, the journey to find meaning is as unique as you are. So, take these tips as your starting point, and carve your own path to a fulfilling and happy work life.

But wait, there’s more! If you’ve enjoyed this journey and want to continue exploring ways to find meaning, happiness, and all the good stuff in between, why not join our newsletter? It’s packed with more tips, insights, and inspiration to help you make the most of your work life. Plus, you’ll be part of a community of like-minded folks who are all on the same quest to find meaning and happiness in their lives. So, what are you waiting for? Sign up today, and let’s continue this journey together. After all, when we find meaning in our work, we don’t just survive — we thrive!

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