Can work ever have real meaning?
As a work from home trainer I get a lot of similar questions about remote work and finding a job in general. The other day someone asked me a doozy that made me pause. Is work ever truly meaningful?
I’m not a philosopher but to me work can be meaningful in two ways. It’s either directly meaningful to you in that it gives you a feeling of deep satisfaction, purpose and accomplishment (but maybe not on Mondays) or it can be indirectly meaningful to you because it is directly meaningful to the beneficiaries of your work which then positively impacts the way you feel about showing up every day (except Mondays).
But I bet you are still wondering how in the heck it works since you have probably never had a job that seemed meaningful to you or anyone you know.
Our society views some work as being intrinsically and unquestionably meaningful but we can’t all rescue babies from burning buildings for a living. There are plenty of jobs that exist because something needs to be done.
In those cases, whether the work is meaningful or not comes down to perspective. One person’s soulless daily grind is another person’s reason to get up in the morning. If I am employed to sweep a section of Market Street every week day I can either view it as having to clean up after a bunch of unappreciative, slovenly narcissists who should have learned to pick up after themselves in kindergarten or I can view it as a direct and meaningful way to make my city better. It’s not saving whales or curing cancer but that doesn’t matter.
The indirectly meaningful work is often much less obvious. It can be hard to extract a sense of satisfying purpose when tightening an identical bolt on an assembly line day after day even if you know that some parts you touched are used to build ambulances that save lives.
Working on something and never seeing the end result can suck the joy out of the best jobs a little bit each day until you can no longer be bothered to get dressed in the morning. This is as common in the corporate world as it is in a worldwide manufacturing supply chain and prompts millions of underpaid flunkies to ask the same question.
One way to uncover meaning from your labors is to seek a job with a short path between your actions and the recipients of your labors no matter how unpleasant the work. I may hate chopping onions but seeing people eagerly line up to buy a bowl of soup I helped make creates a nice feedback loop. My analytical brain tells me that chopping onions or making soup isn’t meaningful by itself but recognizing that people look forward to eating it makes all the difference.
I assume that if you made it this far you are looking for work that is meaningful to you. I guarantee it’s out there somewhere. I found mine helping people leave their office jobs to work from home where life is less stressful and work is much more satisfying. If this sounds interesting to you (if not meaningful), check out my webinars on landing the best work from home jobs from anywhere without previous experience. Add your email below to receive an alert message before the next webinar fills up.