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What Matters Most: Getting to the Heart of Meaningful Work

man-479670_640By:   Mark Guterman

One of the questions most often by clients asked is, “How do I figure out what meaningful work is?”  This question, reflecting both urgency and importance, is not simple to answer and often keeps people stuck, frustrated, or spinning in circles. The good news is that once it has been voiced, the journey to finding an answer can begin.

One of the best ways to discover what gives you meaning at work is to clarify and articulate your values.  As you work your way through this process, you come to “own” them and can then decide if and how they will show up in your work. This choice to work in alignment with your values is at the heart of meaning and becomes the greatest source of satisfaction and purpose in your work life.

A second way to discover what gives you meaning is to take time to ponder the following question:  What matters most?  This question, like most deep questions, has layers, both in the question itself and in the answers that will be revealed.  I recommend a meditative approach, where you put the question forward as a daily, quiet practice and simply see where it and the potential answers take you.  You may want to then record your experience in some fashion, so that you can begin to document and articulate what matters most to you.

Regardless of how you answer the question of what meaningful work is, your goals, plans, and daily activities will have to embody that knowledge. And herein lies the rub: Knowing the answer only begins the process; it is choosing to live and work in accordance with and in expression of what’s most important where meaning begins to emerge.

It takes courage, discipline, and a long-range perspective for most of us to build a meaningful work life.  The interesting and encouraging thing to remember is that as soon as you begin to know and express these qualities, the meaning meter starts counting.  The real beauty of this search is that every time you take a step, every time you move out of your comfort zone, every time you give expression to your values, you are living a meaningful work life.


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