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Finding Meaning in Your Work: Meeting Your Need for Significance and Impact

April 6, 2017

When I sat down to write this blog, I thought about all the things I could write about: how to increase your website’s effectiveness, how to design your website for conversion, how to hire the right personalities, etc., etc.

However, nothing was compelling enough. I wanted to take it back to the basics and address a more human topic that ties to marketing but also life.

That is, how do you continue to find meaning in the work you do every day?

After working at a location or in an industry for any length of time, our work can become a routine – a set of motions we do without the excitement we once had. Even if you know intellectually that this is something you love and want to continue doing, the nature of the task may make you feel robotic.

As a developer, none of the tasks I do are identical, but a lot are similar and sadly, I do find some things repetitive and tedious. While doing menial tasks and correcting tedious elements, I have learned to keep these lessons in mind to continue to find real meaning in my work.

The Kind Environment – Find Meaning in Giving

I find, in all my work interactions, that I’m happiest when I give something back to my team members or my clients. The appreciation and overall kind environment you create through giving helps you not only feel good about yourself but also allows you to approach the day with more positivity. When team members feel cared for and respected, they operate from the standpoint of helpfulness. 

I have termed this the “Kind Environment.” It’s a space where people, despite personal issues, can operate from kindness when they feel appreciated. I know that when someone does something nice for me it makes me want to go the distance for them. Creating a kind environment of mutual respect, gratitude, and appreciation sets the tone for both personal and professional interactions.

Quick Tip:  The opposite is true for an unkind environment – it reduces productivity significantly, as people attempt to hinder others’ days, either consciously or unconsciously.  

Keep the Big Picture in Mind – Find Meaning in Achievement

While executing a menial task, it’s easy to get annoyed and impatient. We all have tasks that are particularly dull, and the feeling of being stuck can cause you to lose motivation and want to throw your hands up in despair. However, keeping your mind focused on the larger goal – the impactful goal – can help you through the menial task. Once you see the smaller tasks as necessary pieces of a larger puzzle, you can find the meaning in them.

My coworker has a great philosophy of eating your frogs first – that is, getting the difficult things done first. I love this philosophy because it means that as you progress in your project, you’re getting rid of the tasks you hate up front and can enjoy the project more the longer you do it. Implement this whenever possible! Document your process with a list of the steps to get it done and do the hard stuff first. Moreover, write the end goal and the reason this project is relevant so when it gets rough, you remember why you’re doing it.

Finally, as with any goal in life, you’ll reach milestones throughout the project that show you how much progress you’ve made; celebrate the small successes and the ordinary may become a little extraordinary.

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Think Outside the Box – Find Meaning in Creativity

Sometimes we lose the spark, the fire, the desire to experiment and do new things. We get stuck in our ways and forget that there’s a world of possibilities.

Keep reminders for yourself about your ability to THINK differently. This is especially helpful in finding meaning because it will satisfy your human need for variety. Work can become boring and stressful if you’re always doing the same thing; this routine factor is the main reason people lose their sense of meaning. Dare to think outside the box, do it faster, better, sharper, smarter – there’s no limit to human creativity. And finding new and exciting ways to think of old problems will also help your peers, further contributing to your sense of providing value.

You may also find new and more efficient ways that save time and help you navigate those boring tasks more quickly. Exercising your creativity is a step away from boredom or feeling like what you do doesn’t matter and a step toward discovering more about yourself, helping your company improve, and creating an environment where people will contribute.

Total Online Presence Audit

Ultimately, I believe that, just like being happy, finding meaning in our work is a daily choice we make. Each of us has a story we tell ourselves every day about how the day will go and what will happen. That story sets the tone.

If you wake up thinking, “Ugh, I have to get out of bed and get dressed. There’s probably going to be traffic, and I’m going to hate being there, and I have to deal with Jane and Mark. I hate Wednesdays,” that story becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – it will dictate your interactions whether you’re conscious of it or not.

So resolve today, right now, to have the most amazing day. To judge each interaction by the quality of your connection, to be as helpful, creative, and kind as you can possibly be. Then, operating from that story, write the story of your day and the meaningfulness you wish to find at work.

What are some stories you tell yourself that might not have realized you were telling yourself?
Darling Jimenez
Written by Darling Jimenez

Darling Jimenez is a passionate graphic and web designer committed to delivering on time products that can generate leads and provide a friendly user experience. With more than 5 years of experience, she loves to stay on top of the latest design and marketing trends.

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