What does a meaningful job mean to you?
You must have noticed the subtle but great worldly movement towards doing something with purpose. It is very likely driven by the millennials entering the workforce. People, for whom earning a living is a hygienic minimum and not a point of attachment, unlike it was for previous generations, who were focused on status. The subtle societal change, driven by the young is affecting everyone.
In Switzerland, a friend told me, there are fairs that focus on people getting their dream job through design thinking. Surely, there will be more of these popping up in the near future.
Now, before I go into details let me clarify what I mean by Meaning.
Very often purpose and meaning are being used interchangeably. However, they do carry a difference with the power to change perspectives. Purpose is the traveling to the goal in a business context. Why are we doing what we are doing? It gives you the motivation for action. But on a personal level, purpose gives an isolated sense of the “Why”. It puts it in a strictly professional sense. While purpose is an important term to understand, its more appropriate definition in light of the new demands of the people (employees) is Meaning. People want to do jobs that are in alignment to their values and philosophy of life. In this sense, purpose is too limited to describe the quest for meaning the modern person is on.
I first started talking about meaning with the start of the preparation for my online programme “Start a business with meaning” (The original name of which was “Quest for Meaning”). This program is especially designed for people who would like to start their own business with meaning.
Only this month did I discover the work of Jordan Peterson on meaning, where he calls meaning, “the Antidote to Chaos”. Chaos in mythology was the nothingness before the beginning of Life (or the Universe) – hence a bad thing.
Now let’s talk about the benefits of working with meaning (and out of chaos).
So, what are really the benefits of having people work with Meaning? Well, at the minimum these are: Increased job and life satisfaction, more motivation, more creativity and innovation – hence more profitability. On a personal level we talk about a brighter outlook on life, more self-confidence and feeling of achievement, improved personal relationships. Positive spillover effects to society and the world.
1. Self-actualization – Meaningless jobs are among the major causes of stress in the workplace. Stress is not caused by work/activity itself but by internal conflict. It comes when people work at cross purposes and in disagreement with themselves. This usually happens whenever people are not in alignment with their values; There is a mismatch to the culture of the management, or of the business. What this means is that meaning in life can only be created in alignment to one’s values.
Now, the opposite is quite obvious. If you work in alignment with your values, you work stress free. In addition, meaning brings you to the top of Maslow’s pyramid. If you think about it, you can only self-actualize, if you’re accomplishing something with meaning to you.
2. Motivation and Life Satisfaction – When you are engaged in something that you love – do you push it through, or do you give up at the sign of the first obstacle? This is not about perseverance and the strength of your character. Only a fool would persevere to do something with no meaning. This is about the extra drive that is available in each and every one of us, when we are passionate about a goal. This extra drive affects our overall life satisfaction. You can’t simply leave your drive in the office, right? If you’ve accomplished something at work that had meaning to you, does your life suddenly look brighter? Do you love your partner more? Are you friendlier to your family and friends? This is higher life satisfaction!
3. Creativity and Innovation – There are two polarities to where creativity comes from. For some people creativity is born in the pressure cooker. Outside pressure can strongly motivate people to innovate. Think about all the innovation coming from poverty-stricken parts of the world. Lots of ground up innovation came from India, where economic circumstances had pushed people to innovate. However, this pressure cooker is hard to create artificially. And maybe it is not even necessary. When people work with meaning they are motivated and their creativity comes out naturally.
4. Brighter outlook on life – Your meaning (purpose) is like a guiding star. It gives you a direction, something to aim for. If you’re wandering around purposeless, you’re also likely to achieve nothing. Now, is meaning something we are born with and supposed to find, or is it something that we create? In my opinion, we have certain talents and natural inclinations but what we make out of it is the making of the meaning. In this sense, the search for Meaning is the making of it (this also aligns well with Jordan Peterson’s point of view).
5. Contribution to the Society and the World – We are contributing members of society. Naturally. Everyone wants to be useful and to contribute. Any exception is a result of abnormality or trauma. People working with meaning engage more of their abilities, they feel utilized. Opposite to the common belief that the more you work, the more tired you get, I dare say that only meaningless work will make you tired and exhausted. Work with meaning gives you energy back. You start tapping energy from your internal generators. Moreover, any positive feedback from people about your engagement (a result from you working with Meaning) will cause you to feel appreciated and recognized, so you will perform even better.
“Meaning is the Antidote to Chaos” (J. Peterson)
Learn More about my programme “Start a Business with Meaning”