5 Ways to Develop Meaning at Work
Psychology Today, Michelle Gielan
January 2011

Does this sound like your workday? The alarm goes off. You get up, shower, and head to the office. You say hi to the same people every morning, respond to emails, eat lunch with a couple of your colleagues in the cafeteria downstairs, and wait for the clock to tell you it is time to go home. During most days, nothing remarkable seems to happen. You are bored and complacent, and do not feel a sense of meaning in your work.

Don’t worry, you are not alone. Many of us wonder how a job that seemed good in the beginning now leaves us feeling listless, empty, or ready to bolt for the door at the end of each workday.

These days, more people are asking themselves: “Is this all there is?” We wonder what kind of positive impact we are having on others and how we can make changes so that we feel more energized about our careers. It can be done, I assure you! Finding meaning at work is possible and achievable. You don’t necessarily need to switch companies or careers. Meaning is all around us; we just have to know where to look! Here are five strategies on how to develop a greater sense of meaning at the office:

Make a list of all the ways you positively impact people: The work you do has value in this world beyond boosting the bottom line. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t be doing it. Ask yourself what kind of impact you are making on other people? What does the result of your work allow others to do? For instance, a store clerk might feel she is simply selling stuff to people to make money for the shop owner. In reality, she often helps people pick the perfect gift and brightens their day. Her positive attitude makes the difference. How are you positively affecting people?

Leverage company resources to do good: Your company has resources besides money – such as manpower and talent – that could be used to make a difference in your community. Is your company involved in charitable initiatives? Are you? Maybe you and a group of your co-workers could volunteer or raise money for charity, while at the same time bonding and boosting company morale. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Make it your mission to help others to succeed: When I worked as an on-air reporter at FOX News Chicago, there was one particular editor who always went the extra mile to help us reporters present the most compelling stories possible. Her joy came from seeing the team of reporters succeed. How do you help others to be at their best? Research has shown that focusing on others can be a great source of meaning and happiness.

Take a close look at your successes: Meaning can come from any moment in life. Look for meaning in the good moments to help you ride out the bad ones, suggests Alex Pattakos, Ph.D., author of PRISONERS OF OUR THOUGHTS: Viktor Frankl’s Principles for Discovering Meaning in Life and Work. He asks clients to pick a positive moment and reflect on why it was positive and how it made them feel. He discusses the inquiry method in the video below.

Deepen your social relationships at the office: I am not talking about having an office fling here! Positive social relationships can have a huge impact on our level of happiness, and the office can be a great place to develop new friendships. Try having lunch with a colleague you don’t know well and talk about anything other than work. Ask about family or outside interests. Who knows, you might end up with a new friend you never expected!