1) Discover meaning in your current job
It’s easy to get preoccupied with the day-to-day activities required of you at work. As a result, it’s also easy to get trapped into a mindset that what you’re doing is insignificant and that it doesn’t make a broader impact. I encourage you to challenge this mindset and think about how your work ties into the bigger picture of your life and your company. What is your company’s mission? How does your job contribute to this mission? How is what you do making a deeper impact on the company and your community? How are your needs being satisfied in your current role? Perhaps there’s a lot of meaning in your work already, you just haven’t discovered it. Take a step back, evaluate what you and your company are doing, and see if you can manufacture some significance for your work.
2) Learn about yourself and your psychology
Become a detective on yourself. Learn about your strengths, your weaknesses, what pisses you off, what motivates you, how your body works, what your goals and values are, why your goals and values are what they are, and so forth. Literally examine the shit out of yourself and the way your mind works. You may find that what you thought you wanted isn’t really what you want, that your current trajectory does not align with your long-term life vision, or that there are aspects of your cognition, personality, and emotional makeup that you’ve been blind to. You may discover that the way society tells you to live is not, in fact, how you want to live. I think self-awareness is key when it comes to finding work that satisfies and fulfills you because it’s essential that you know yourself in order to determine the optimal direction to move in.
3) Seek opportunities
I’m leaving my job at the end of March and moving to Austin with almost no game plan and absolutely no guarantees. This may turn out to be a huge blunder but my intuition tells me otherwise. I encourage you, if you aren’t finding the meaning you’re looking for in your current situation, to be strategic and seek opportunities. This doesn’t mean quit your job tomorrow but it does mean that you need to start being proactive and putting yourself out there to find something that you believe will align better with your talents, values, and goals. Learn about and try out things that interest you. Start a side project. Dip your toe in the pool of possibility. Be courageous, plan ahead, trust your gut, and put yourself in a position to do something that matters to you.
4) Be patient
This one is especially hard for me. We want everything right away and the internet and our consumerist culture has done nothing but propagate this ideology. The process of self-discovery and aligning one’s talents with a suitable employment arrangement takes time, especially because society lacks the institutions necessary to expedite this process. Think of all the successful people that you look up to (and success is by no means simply monetary). I doubt they got there overnight and I would wager they put years of effort into themselves and discovering/sharpening their talents and skills in order to get to where they’re at now. Engage in the process of self-discovery and focus on the process rather than the end result. The process itself will give you the best chances of getting to the end results you desire.
Look, no one is entitled to make money doing what they love. Understand that work is not yet at a point where providing meaning is a performance metric for managers. Meaning is highly ambiguous and individual and it will take time to figure out how to satisfy the upper needs of Maslow’s pyramid. I do believe, however, that meaningful work is attainable and I’m going to do everything in my power to discover it for myself and others. If you’re passionate about doing work that provides substance to you and your life, let’s start the discussion and invest effort and energy into discovering and defining meaning within the context of work.