Five ways to find purpose in work

Ever felt stuck on a treadmill, where a sense of emptiness permeates too many of your work days? Often it’s the workplace culture - politics and pointless meetings - that takes away the ability to connect with the bigger purpose of your work.  

According to Gallup, 86% percent of Australians and New Zealanders are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work. Only 14% are happy at work.

In contrast, Australians and New Zealanders report the happiest life satisfaction in the world. We are pretty good at happiness! Yet when it comes to work, Australians and New Zealanders fall from world-best practice to below average levels of engagement.

Starting out, people often select their occupations because they want to help others, they pursue their interests or because they are good at something. But instead of getting enjoyment from these interests and talents, their energy each day is often concentrated on surviving working life.   

If you get Sunday-night-anxiety, you may be surprised to hear that work in itself is actually good for you - we are hard-wired to work.

But, if you are unhappy, you may be the where you work rather than the what you do.

Five good things about work

1.     Feel the interconnectedness with our broader society

Work is where we all play our part in the interconnectedness of our economy and our society. We become co-creators with millions of other people in a broader network. We can miss this important reality when doing hidden, narrow jobs; but when our eyes are open, we have a sense of belonging to a greater whole. Because when we don’t have the opportunity to work, we can get a ‘left-out’ feeling.  

 2.     We can take pleasure in our community created by work

Work is relational and ideally builds the dignity of each other. Through our work we can love and care for others - it is performing an act of giving to another person – doing things for others and taking pleasure in that. When we have direct connections with our customers, we give others what they need to flourish. Work is an opportunity to serve and be kind to others. True teamwork is community at is best - community is core to our humanity.

 3.     Savour the results of our efforts

Work provides the opportunity to see the results of our efforts. So savour that experience of seeing your product or service being sold; solving that tricky problem or transforming raw materials into something useful, beautiful or nourishing. At its simplest, your work could be transforming a space that was previously untidy into a tidy, clean and ordered space that brings peace to someone else.

 4.     Express our talents and abilities

We are all gifted and have abilities. Have you ever had that experience of being in ‘the zone’ while working and time just flies? We get a buzz when we express our talents and abilities in our work. And then we get an extra lift when appreciation is shown when we share our abilities and talents.    

 5.     Strive towards goals that matter to you

We thrive when we have a sense of ownership and the freedom to decide, where, when and how we work. Most of us crave self-directed objectives.

When I talk to people with lengthy careers and ask them to reflect back on their career highlights, they usually describe a memory like working with a great team and a great feeling rather than the achievement of a particular level of seniority. Yet in contrast, climbing the ladder, getting a promotion and an increase in salary is often what we striving for in our careers.

Work is relational and builds the dignity of each other

If you are looking for more purpose and meaning in your work and in your life, consider our upcoming workshop, Discover the Opportunity & Joy of a 100 Year Life. We will be talking about alternatives to the conventional 9 to 5 as well as practical actions for harnessing the gift of longer lives.

Melinda Livingstone is the founder of IncomeConnection: matching people seeking an income with opportunities to earn an income from the growing on-demand sharing economy and setting them up for success. She writes and speaks on the on-demand sharing economy and the opportunities it provides.