How to Find Meaningful Work

Finding Meaningful Work


Am I meant to do something in particular? The short answer is no. To find your career direction, there are much better questions to ask.

If you’re still wondering about what you should be doing with your life, welcome to the human race. Seeking our place in the world we backpack across Europe, job hop, occupy Wall Street, have threesomes, move across the country, get graduate degrees, get married and buy a house. Keeping ours lives busy brings a sense of accomplishment. After you’ve been there and done all that, now what?

how to find meaningful workThe question “What am I meant to do?” is hard to answer for everyone. Most of us sit with this puzzle at crossroads along the way in life. I’d like to suggest that the reason we struggle to find clarity on this matter has more to do with asking the wrong question. Being “meant” to do something implies that there’s a hidden answer somewhere inside you. Or, that finding your life direction is somehow predestined. Albeit, we do have innate talents and proclivities that are appear hidden to us, but we’ll get to that in part 2 of this article.  

If we humans were meant to do something preordained from on high, chances are we would have figured it out somewhere along the way, either in high school, college or sometime shortly after. But this isn’t the case, most people are waiting for the answer to come well into their 40s, or longer, with no luck. I’d like to introduce a Zulu proverb:

“If the future doesn’t come toward you, you’ll have to go fetch it.” This suggests a different approach, which is a more efficient way of figuring out what direction to steer your career. 

How to Find Meaningful Work


The first step to choosing meaningful work is to rethink your concept of the future, moving from a passive to an active approach. Contrary to the common wisdom, it’s rare that things will “work out later,” especially when it comes to career choices. People who are retiring will tell you that they’re still waiting or hoping for answers. I work with clients in their 60s who are finally making the time to decide what they want to be when they grow up, they never got around to figuring it out.

Actively moving “toward” the future may sound odd. The alternative is to wait for it to hit you over the head, so maybe it’s more fun to put yourself out there on limb, in a playful state of mind, and create your future. Suspend the notion that your future is waiting for you. Pretend the future is not a place or distant time, but an idea in your mind— more like a blueprint for what could be. Do the same with your past; pretend it’s just collection of memories. Now, you’re just standing there with no set future and no past. What have you got? The here and now.

The future is now. If this is true, then the theory that things will work out later doesn’t ring so true. If the future doesn’t exist, then what? If there’s nothing to find, nothing waiting for you and no destined meaning for your life, where do you go from here?

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