“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Humans are wired for meaning. It’s the ultimate goal of life in a complex world. Life and living it is an experiment in progress. The pursuit of anything that makes you come alive can make life incredibly enjoyable.
“A meaningful life is one in which you feel engaged, connected to purpose, and able to connect your gifts and passions with your highest values,” writes Taking Charge.
The secret to finding momentum and purpose in all areas of life is your sole responsibility — you are in charge of defining what you want, planning your change, and taking the necessary action to do exactly what you expect.
Everything relevant to your values and identity can change your perception about life and living it. What you don’t want is spending the rest of your precious and short life, doing everything you absolutely hate.
To build the life that means everything to your values, pursue activities, work and projects that mean the world to you — strive to find and do things that excites you.
Without it work that means something else beyond money, what you do can easily become boring, just something you do to pay the bills — which means you’re spending somewhere around half your waking hours (sometimes more) doing something you don’t like, just to pay the bills.
Is that a life you really want to live? You may not have a lot of options to do exactly what you want to earn a living, but you can embrace and adopt other activities or personal projects that can bring out the best in you or help you find the meaning you miss at work.
Projects you pursue for your own reasons (and not simply to please someone else are more likely to be joyful.
Your work fills a large part of your life, do everything in your power to make it awesome. If you haven’t found what makes you come alive yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. Everything else is secondary.
Meaningful work changes everything
Personal meaningful work doesn’t have to be groundbreaking or solve a global problem. It doesn’t have to cure cancer.
Amazing work can be any kind of work; if it’s fulfilling your potential, and makes you lose yourself, you’ve found exactly what you need to live the life you want.
Ryan Robinson of Buffer says, “If your work is something you love, it will give clarity, drive, and happiness to all aspects of your life. If your work is meaningful, you’ll be more likely to stick with it in the long run, which means you’re more likely to be successful as a result.”
Finding meaning in one’s work increases motivation, engagement, empowerment, career development, job satisfaction, individual performance and personal fulfilment, according to research.
It can be anything from creating something new, improving an existing product or service, building something awesome, helping others, inspiring others, teaching others, setting in motion something that will make the world a better place, making something beautiful, creating something useful, moving the hearts of others.
Michael Steger, Ph.D., a faculty member in the Counseling Psychology and Applied Social Psychology programs at Colorado State University sees meaningful work as consisting of three, central components:
“First, the work we do must make sense; we must know what’s being asked of us and be able to identify the personal or organizational resources we need to do our job.
Second, the work we do must have a point; we must be able to see how the little tasks we engage in build, brick-by-brick if you will, into an important part of the purpose of our company.
Finally, the work that we do must benefit some greater good; we must be able to see how our toil helps others, whether that’s saving the planet, saving a life, or making our co-workers’ jobs easier so that they can go home and really be available for their families and friends.”
Make your own meaning
“Pursue something so important that even if you fail, the world is better off with you having tried.” — Tim O’Reilly
Right now is the best time in history to pursue your life’s work.
Over the long term, the future is decided by optimists. People who never give up on their life’s work. You have something to share with the rest of the world. Be an optimist. And make an impact in your own small way possible.
“There has never been a better time with more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/risk ratios, better returns, greater upside, than now. Right now, this minute. This is the time that folks in the future will look back at and say, “Oh to have been alive and well back then!”, says Kevin Kelly.
People who choose well and focus on building something that matters to them first always go that extra mile and find fulfilment in the process.
Pursuing meaning makes you feel good about yourself because you are pursuing something bigger than yourself.
“Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life. That is why man is even ready to suffer, on the condition, to be sure, that his suffering has meaning,” says Viktor Frankl, the world-renowned psychiatrist, existential philosopher, and author of the classic bestseller, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”
Viktor suggests three ways of finding meaning in our lives:
- By creating a work or doing a deed.
- By experiencing something or encountering someone.
- By the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.
You have one life, and it’s yours completely to control. Choose what makes you come alive, and do it often.
Don’t fail to exercise your right to try something.
Get into the habit of questioning the rules, of becoming curious about where you could try something different and where you could throw the windows open. You will be surprised at what you are capable of.
Start with something you can do today or this week, even if you can commit a few minutes to it. And tomorrow, do it again. Maybe for a few more minutes. And so on.
Take no less than 100% responsibility for your life
Everything about you are right now is a result of what you have done or didn’t do. Income. Debt. Relationships. Health. Fitness level. Attitudes and behaviours.
“The moment you take responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you can change anything in your life, says Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning.
Your life is a sum of the choices you made yesterday. If you want a different outcome, change your behaviour and habits.
Roy T. Bennett, author of The Light in the Heart says, “Accepting personal responsibility for your life frees you from outside influences — increases your self-esteem — boosts confidence in your ability to decisions — and ultimately leads to achieving success in life.”
Making a change is uncomfortable and can be overwhelming for you. It might mean you have to put in more time, money, and effort.
But it’s the only way to get what you want.
Many people have so many things they want to do but they end up wishing all year round without taking action.
Write what you want down and be guided by it. Take even the smallest step towards that reality every day. That’s how you get closer to your dreams and realistic goals.
Make the decision to start somewhere. And when it’s time to get on with it, don’t postpone it. Do what you have to do.
Once you commit time to it and begin to put things on paper, every other idea about the people and resources you need to make it happen will begin to be clear to you.
Invest in your life’s work boldly
Today, right now, opportunities are endless. You just have to do decide what you want and get started, no matter how small.
Share your thoughts on Medium. Write a book. Or an ebook. Share your best ideas with others online or through a free ebook.
Write poetry and publish it on the web. Share your passion project online. Explore the world, and blog about it (when it’s safe again).
Try something you’ve always been afraid to try, and put it on video. Be yourself, loudly. Start a new company, doing only one thing, but doing it very well.
Start a business that does a service you’ve always wanted, or that you are frustrated with in other industries you like. Do something others are afraid to do. Help someone no one else cares to help. Make the lives of others better.
Make music that makes others want to weep, to laugh, to create. Inspire others by being inspiring. Teach young people to do amazing things.
Write a play, get others to act in it, record it. Empower others to do things they’ve never been able to do before.
Read, and read, and then write. Love, and love, and then help others to love. Do something good and ask others to pass it on. Be profound. Find focus in a world without it.
Become minimalist in a world of dizzying complexity. Reach out to those who are frustrated, depressed, angry, confused, sad, hurt. Be the voice for those without one. Learn, do, then teach.
Interview people. Study the greats and share interesting lessons you find with the world. Be interested in others. Surprise people.
Cook great food, and share it. Be open-minded. Help someone else start a small business. Focus on less but do it better. Start an online shop on Shopify. Create and sell stuff on Etsy.
Help others achieve their dreams. Put a smile on someone’s face, every day. Start an open-source project. Start a podcast. Be hilarious. Get really, really good at something. Practice a lot. A lot. Start now. Try.
If you’re willing to take the risk of sharing yourself and your ideas with the world, you can create value or something meaningful you will be proud of.
What you choose to do now matters
Everything around you, the place you live, your means of transport to work, the tools you use at work, technology for both learning and leisure were all made by people who are no smarter than you.
You can add to human development and progress in your own small way. Choose to create. If you’re already doing amazing work, keep doing it.
But if you feel like there’s nothing amazing on your to-do list, then it’s obvious the work you’re doing doesn’t excite you, and you don’t feel it matters.
There are now insanely great and even free resources out there that can make it easy to show your work. Take advantage of them.
You don’t need permission to show the world what you are capable of. Right now, this minute, you can decide to start working on your most important work. And guess what, the world is ready to try it out.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be ready.
The real-world rewards those who get stuff done. You don’t even have to get it right. As long as you are ready for feedback, you can always iterate and make it better.
Build what brings out the best in you! Then, things cannot go wrong. Even if they do, you would have at least tried doing what excites you.
A side project has the potential to grow into something meaningful a lot of people could benefit from.
Getting there may take some work but it takes a decision to get started. Something you do for fun on nights and weekends could turn into your new full-time dream business or invention.
Today and tomorrow are open with possibilities. All you have to do is decide to make use of them to start working on stuff that matters to you, and live the life, that you really want.
It’s time for a healthy dose of practical optimism. Be bold and take a decision right now to start something you deeply care about.
The first key: start looking
If you don’t ever look for it, it’s not likely to just fall into your lap. Be curious now. Once you start looking for your amazing work, you’re much much more likely to find it.
That sounds kinda obvious, but it’s surprising how many of us will go through our workdays (and years) without trying to find our amazing work, for many reasons.
Maybe we don’t believe in ourselves, maybe we don’t think we have the time, maybe we’re putting it off until someday.
Well, start believing in yourself. Make the time. Make someday today.
Start by looking at the work you’re already doing: how can you find something in your work that excites you?
Why did you get into it in the first place? When have you ever been excited about your work? What part of your work do you look forward to the most? How can you take it to the next level? What do you do after work?
If you’ve really looked long and hard at your work and can’t find anything at all, nothing, nada that excites you, that might become exciting, then start looking elsewhere.
What other work have you done that you love? What have you done that has made a difference?
Have you had any previous jobs that had exciting work? Do you have hobbies that excite you — perhaps those can be turned into amazing Work?
What do you read about — online and off? Do those things excite you, and if so, can you find something in that line of work?
Talking to others can spark ideas — ask the people who know you best what they think you should do. Ask co-workers about things that excite them. Talk to people online.
Once you come up with some ideas, it’s time to start doing them, trying them, testing them out.
Sometimes something can sound fun but not be as fun once you try it. Sometimes something can sound uninteresting, but once you do it, there’s much more fun to it than you thought.
It’s a process of experimenting — try things, give them a chance, and then pursue them if they’re exciting. If not, try something new.
One thing to keep in mind, though — things can be more fun if you’re good at something, and it can take a while to get good at something. The key is to enjoy the learning process as well.
Now here is the most important part
Start working on the things you need to be doing right now, this minute. No matter how slow you work on your most important work, you will still be ahead of everyone else who isn’t trying to fulfil a dream.
Stop letting yourself procrastinate.
Action begets outcome. Outcome begets more action. You can only create or build when you make a move. Momentum builds through action.
You can’t see the results you expect until you overcome your fear of starting and begin to take the first step at actually creating a new business, starting a new project or building the life you want.
The only thing worse than failure is not starting. Don’t discount the power of action no matter how small.
Start going through the motions of making progress. At first, it might feel forced, but eventually, you’ll get in the groove.
In the words of playwright Samuel Beckett, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Your journey towards meaningful work begins today if it hasn’t already!
This post was previously published on Personal Growth.
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