“Happiness is linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness goes with being a giver rather than a taker.”
The study surveyed 397 people over a month – examining their life choices, beliefs and values in the context of happiness versus meaning.
Distinct differences emerged around these five themes:
While having your physical and materials needs met is a reliable source of happiness, it doesn’t necessarily correlate to meaning.
Example: a healthy person might be happy, but a sick person might experience profound meaning.
Happiness is all about elation in the present moment and is generally not sustainable.
Meaning, on the other hand, is about linking the past, present and future to see patterns, detect self-purpose and derive a self-narrative. It’s an ongoing process.
Of course, relationships influence both meaning and happiness. But the deeper the relationship, the more it imparts meaning.
Shorter-term, superficial relationships impart more happiness simply because they’re less complex.
The most meaningful events in our lives are rife with hardships and happiness.
Example: Marriage and parenthood are challenging prospects characterised by countless highs and lows. But if you go through life striving to avoid pain, your sense of purpose and meaning will undoubtedly suffer.
If happiness is about getting what you want, then meaning is about expressing and defining who you are—driven by a keen sense of self that knowingly links to the larger web of life.
Something tells me you’re a seeker of meaning at work.
That you’re as much a giver as you are a taker (maybe you’re more of the former). But you’ve been around long enough to know that life is never that black and white.
“My only advice for you is this. Go within yourself and probe the depths from which your life springs.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
Step 2: Look Inside.
Where do you stand right now on the happiness versus meaning scale?
Let’s dive deeper into the most potent themes above, using your personal story as a guide. Doing this will help you answer the question “how to find meaningful work” more quickly.
Perhaps you’ve gotten too comfortable in your current job and the thought of letting it go feels impossible.
People are counting on you. People have supported you along the way. Endless excuses pop up at the mere suggestion of a major change.
After all, our stories are shaped by our environment and the people who listen to them. Is your giving nature unconsciously limiting what’s possible for your next phase?
Imagine you’re at your 90th birthday party, reflecting back on your life. If there was one path you had regrets about not pursuing, what would it be?
Chances are any palpable pang of regret indicates a path worth pursuing.
Now…picture the next five or so years of your career. What do you see?
Don’t leave that story untold. Do some taking. In the end, you’ll have the capacity to give more.
Allow yourself to consider this question during some quiet time: When do you feel most like yourself? Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve really felt like “you.”
Think back to the things that used to make you feel alive, authentic and real – when you lost track of time and found yourself in flow.
How can your next career move reconnect you with your core essence?
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will never lead you astray.” – Rumi
Most business leaders I speak to find great meaning in the process of hiring and mentoring teams. They report feeling most ‘alive’ when their guidance helps unlock new levels of performance amongst their staff.
Your experience may be different; you may find meaning in something other than the role of team mentor. That’s perfectly fine.
The important takeaway here is – once you begin to search inside yourself, be willing to take actions which bring you one step closer to finding meaningful work. Which brings us to the next step.
Step 3: Action.
Now that you’ve spent some quality time going inward, it’s time to act.
We’ve already established that a career (and life) with meaning has to involve at least some stress. But it doesn’t mean you have to accept the unnecessary stress that comes from being out of alignment with your inner values.
In that same vein, it doesn’t mean that some of those superficial connections won’t be valuable in your job search.
Don’t discount contacts from your network just because you don’t know them extremely well.
When you’re ready to screen potential employers/opportunities, follow the step-by-step guide below to ensure that you find a job with meaning.