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At the Intersection of Meaning and Soul

by Mark Guterman and Dan King

Photo of businessman holding moneyYour money or your soul?

Not really a choice, is it? A similar question was posed at a recent conference we attended. According to the speaker, the key to finding meaningful work is to identify the point at which your financial needs crisscross with your personal or spiritual needs. Most of the attendees enjoyed very successful work lives and so they had the ability, one might even say luxury, to see meaningful work in such expansive terms. It’s much easier to self-actualize when your financial security needs are met. Maslow knew what he was talking about.

Sure, doing well and doing good, working toward a double or even triple “bottom line” can lead to meaningful work. But there are other themes that just as readily bring meaning to our worklives. If we pursue our passions as fervently as we pursue our paychecks, we may strike a meaningful balance.

We see many people who are financially successful, but who work in jobs that suck the life right out of them, essentially leaving their souls barren. And we see people who work in jobs they love, that nurture their souls, but they struggle to achieve financial security. Neither of these are a win. True meaning comes from finding the right combination of passion, purpose and profit.

All jobs require that we make trade-offs. Most people say they will do anything to make more money. Yet, we know that there are some jobs they wouldn’t do no matter how much you paid them. Why is that?

If you would like to pursue a career that brings meaning to your life, let these assumptions guide you in your quest:

Meaningful work is in the eye of the beholder. Each of us gets to decide what is meaningful and one person’s worthwhile aspiration is not necessarily right or appropriate for anyone else. You need to know what matters to you above and beyond a good paycheck. Independence? Creativity? Altruism?

At any point in our worklives, we can experience meaningful work. Whether it is putting food on the table for the family you cherish, creating a work of art, or doing something entirely of your own making, meaningful work is once and always accessible to everyone. Meaning is about the choices we make and how we experience ourselves in relation to whatever work we are doing.

When people experience their work as meaningful, they are happier, healthier, more creative, and are likely to add lasting value in whatever it is they are doing. A happy work life leads to a happier personal life and a more satisfying family life. This means that any combination, freely chosen and consciously practiced, can lead to meaningful work.

Where do money and soul intersect for you?

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