I have moments where I think – “This is the work I was born to do”.
I feel a sense of aliveness, joy and a deep inner knowing that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing. Work that makes a difference. That impacts people’s lives. Work that means something important to me. That is a reflection of who I am as a person and aligns with my values and my inner drivers.
I can’t say I have this feeling all the time (no job, realistically, is like that all the time!). It’s usually when I’ve been in a really good coaching session where I know the person has had a significant inner shift. Where I know something inside them has changed forever and things will be different for them from this point on.
There are other moments too that remind me of why I do what I do. Like when a client tells me I’ve changed their life. Or that I’ve helped their level of happiness go from a 3 to a 7. Or when they say that the empty feeling they had has gone. Or someone tells me that a blog has inspired or helped them in some way.
This is my purpose.
And, in my own small way, it’s my legacy. That lives on in the lives of individuals I have helped and the ripple effect this has on those around them and those who come after them.
It is quiet work. No fanfare. No big publicity. In fact, some of my clients have the kind of high profile that means even the fact I’m working with them is confidential!
Importance of meaning
I know I am incredibly lucky and feel very grateful to do work that I find so meaningful. Especially when you consider the importance meaningful work plays in our lives. And it’s also why I spend much of my time working with people who want to find or create more meaning in their work or lives.
A 2011 HBR article claimed that in the modern world of work, “Meaning is the new money”. It’s what people really want from work these days.
And a 2018 study of over 2,000 American professionals, also found more than 9 out of 10 were willing to trade 23% of their lifetime earnings (on average) for greater meaning at work. Given that Americans spend about 21% of their incomes on housing, this shows that people were willing to spend more on meaningful work than on their home!
The impact of meaning
When your work is worthwhile or meaningful to you or you have a real sense of why you are doing what you do, it positively impacts your psychological sense of wellbeing. It not only helps you feel fulfilled, it also helps you stay motivated, engaged and energised over the long term.
It’s also what keeps you going through any challenging times or through the more mundane or boring parts (which exist in any job).
For me, it’s also what drives me to keep learning, growing and challenging myself as a person and as a coach as I know the more I work on myself, the better I can serve my clients. The more I can bring to them. And the deeper I can go with them.
Searching for meaning
This sense of meaning is the very thing many of my clients want and come to me looking for. To have more purpose or fulfilment in the work they do, as well as in their lives more generally. Deep down, many are yearning for something more. While incredibly successful outwardly, their lives are often very busy and not as fulfilling as they would like. Their lives can sometimes even feel a little empty or like something is missing.
For some, work can be a bit like a takeaway meal. It saves you from cooking and fills you up i.e. it earns you money, creates a sense of achievement and gives you status – but doesn’t truly nourish you or feed you what you really need.
The individuals I work with typically have great success, high profile roles and are incredibly well rewarded for what they do, but sometimes wonder if their talents can be used in a better way or whether they could have a greater sense of purpose or do something more meaningful.
As one C suite executive said to me, “If I’m going to work this hard, I want it to be for something worthwhile”.
Finding your own meaning
Of course you don’t have to be a coach or a life saving surgeon or to be saving the planet to be doing work that is meaningful. And your purpose doesn’t have to be lofty or worthy or big. It simply has to be important to you. To mean something to you.
For me, it’s about making a difference. One life at a time.
What might it be for you?