How to change your perspective of ‘Meaning at Work’

by Tammi Johnson in Engagement, Meaning, Work Life
June 1, 2017 0 comments

HOw to change your perspective of ‘Meaning at Work’

In my last corporate job, I met a man who forever changed my perspective about meaning at work. In the interest of his privacy, I’ll call him Steve here, though that was not his real name.

I was working in IT, running a team of talented developers and system engineers and was doing the best I could to leave around 5pm. Most of the time, it worked, as many of us were parents and prioritizing family was an important aspect for all of us.
Naturally, there were also days when things became busier that demanded longer hours in the office, and if I found myself there after 6pm, I got to see Steve.

Steve was part of a small group that maintained and cleaned the building late into the night. Steve was actually starting his second job at 6pm, but it certainly didn’t seem to deter his spirit. He arrived every evening with a huge smile on his face and always came by to check on anyone who happened to still be “stuck” at work. That visit always made being there late a little nicer.
One day, we learned that Steve’s car was totaled in a car accident. He didn’t have insurance or enough money to buy a new car so he began arriving to work by bus. It was in the middle of the winter. It was cold and icy. Still, Steve continued to show up with a smile, came to check on us, and never complained.

Like many others, we would look forward to Friday, vacations and getting away from the office. Steve, on the other hand, seemed to look forward to being at work and a chance to chat with whomever was there. He seemed to find true meaning in his work.
One day we learned that Steve was fighting terminal cancer. Our company’s president organized an event to lift Steve’s spirit. In more than 20 years of working in corporate IT, I couldn’t remember such a large turn out as a tribute for one of our employees. Steve clearly had touched many lives, and you can only imagine how moved he was when he entered the room. Steve passed away just a few weeks later, leaving an unforgettable impression that forever changed my perspective on meaning at work

Finding meaning in what we do has shown to increase happiness, engagement, wellbeing, productivity, creativity and success.

In order to find meaning ask yourself the following questions:

1. How much of your day do you spend on activities you really want to do?
2. How much do you feel that your time controls you, as opposed to you controlling your time?
3. How much of what you do, do you feel is “expected” of you?
4. What are you looking forward to?
5. How often do you make decisions out of guilt?

What are some ways you can start incorporating more consciousness and meaning in what you do?

1. Focus on what you can’t live without 
My Positive Psychology instructor, Dr. Tal Ban Shahar, used to quote one of his student: “Instead of focusing on what we can ‘live with’, we should be thinking about what we can’t live without” – Ebony Carter 21 years old.

Start with thinking about: What is it that you cannot live without?
What is one small change that can you do today to increase time and energy on these domains you cannot live without?

2. Find flow
Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian psychologist recognized and named the psychological concept of flow, a highly focused mental state. You know you are in flow when you completely lose track of time and you are highly engaged. Identify your key strengths. Once your strengths are determined, focus on them! Find the activities for you and your team members that cause you to be fully immersed and that bring you a feeling of joy and accomplishment. Flow activities were proven to increase our wellbeing, happiness, productivity and creativity.

3. Live by you core values
Sometimes people are not happy at work and they are not sure why. Identify your core values and also the mission of the company that you work for. Make sure that your values are aligned with your company’s mission and ensure that your values are not being compromised.

Think about one small step you can take today on the path to a more meaningful, productive and fulfilling personal and professional life.

Regardless of your job, there is a always a way to find meaning and purpose at work.


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