How to find meaning in your work

Many of us spend a big chunk of our daily lives working. On average, you spend a whopping 90,000 hours of your life at work and how you feel at work greatly impacts your general happiness, fulfillment and sense of purpose.

In reality, a lot of us are not satisfied with our work. You might have been satisfied when you got your current job, but something in your life happened and your perspective shifted. Or you went on a holiday, got out of the rat race for a while and you realised you want to change something in your life. So what can you do?

When you want to increase your job satisfaction, you’ll probably think about what makes you happy. But chasing happiness is a little tricky. Because it is impossible to be happy all the time, chasing happiness can actually leave you feeling more unhappy. So what should you focus on? The key to feeling more satisfied at work is finding out why you do what you do and what gives you a sense of purpose and meaning.

According to a Harvard business review study, employees who feel there is meaning and significance to their work had a 1.7 times higher job satisfaction, were more than three times as likely to stay at their current workplace and were 1.4 times more engaged at work.

​Simon Sinek’s Why

So how do we find our purpose? How do we know why we do what we do? In 2009, Simon Sinek – a British-American writer and motivational speaker – delivered one of the most watched Ted talks of all time. He presented the idea of the golden circle as a way to find and communicate why you do what you do. 

© The Golden Circle: Presenter Slides and Notes

The golden circle is a pretty simple concept. It is a circle with three parts, which are named ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’.  So what you do, how you do it and – most importantly – why you do what you do. Thinking about your ‘why’ is something that comes from deep within. It is deeply personal. You might be inspired or get ideas from other people, but in the end it is you that has to find your own personal meaning, your why. 

It can be challenging to think about your ‘why’. In your brain, your ‘why’ is not rational. It’s emotional. Your ‘why’ is linked to your values and is rooted in your limbic system. Because your limbic system has no capacity for language, your ‘why’ is that ‘gut feeling’ that we talked about in our last blog and that gives you answers to decisions long before the mind can come up with a rationale for or against something.

How to find your why

If you want to find and articulate your why, it is time to look at the past and to your future. Take some time to go through events in your life that had a big impact on you, where you felt in flow and had a sense of being happy, on point, doing what you were supposed to do. What were these events? Do they have a common theme? Then, look at your future. Think about your big goal or mission in life. What is it? What do you want to achieve in your life, what do you want to be proud of when you are 80? 

When you have found the answers to these questions, it is time to look at the present. Is what you want to achieve and what makes you tick aligned with what you do today? That’s great! Having a clear sense of your why could add meaning to what you already do – and therefore give you energy and motivation. If it is not aligned you could start thinking about how you could incorporate your ‘why’ into your life and if it’s time to make any changes.​

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Hi, I am Miguel Baumann

​I challenge young professionals in Tech to take charge of their careers.

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