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How Rare is Meaningful Work?

By Mark Guterman

meaningful workI’ve been re-reading Joanne Ciulla’s The Working Life (highly recommended, by the way) and came across the following lines in the next-to-the-last paragraph of the book:

Do we know what kind of life we want and are we willing to give up something for it? Or, to put it another way, Is the life we have now worth what we are giving up for it?  Meaningful work is rare, but is out there to be found either in a paid job or in our free time, if we really want it.  Not everyone wants it, finds it, or considers the same things meaningful.  A work-dominated life is fine if it is a conscious choice and makes one happy.  But if it doesn’t, then we should start thinking about how to fit work into our lives instead of fitting lives into our work.

I agree with most of this, particularly when she says that not everyone considers the same things meaningful.  My disagreement is around her statement that meaningful work is “rare.”  I would say that what is rare is the capacity to make conscious choices about knowing what is meaningful in our work.

Furthermore, the discipline and courage needed to locate and find meaningful work is an even rarer commodity.  I believe that many, if not most, people have great intention and can get to a place where meaningful work can be pictured, felt, and articulated.  The real challenge is then going beyond our intention to make meaningful work real.

Many people, of course, already have the courage, or find a way to develop it along the way.  Most of us, however, find ourselves in continuous struggle and we eventually fall back into old patterns and habits, clinging to paths of least resistance.  Meaningful work is not rare; it is available to everyone.  What is rare is our ability to stay the course once we’ve decided what meaningful work looks and feels like.

MeaningfulCareers.com was created by Mark Guterman and Dan King, two guys with a shared commitment to the power of meaningful work.  They help professionals find greater meaning in their careers, lead happier, more satisfying lives, and instill lasting value through their work.  For more information and resources visit:  http://meaningfulcareers.com


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