By Kathy Gates, Professional Life Coach
Many years ago, I had a job that I wasn't very happy with. Whenever someone would come into my office and say "How's it going?', I'd always answer "I'd rather be fishing." Meaning, of course, that I'd rather be just about anywhere than where I was (no offense to fishermen).
These days, however, when someone asks me "How's it going?" I often remark that I would do what I do even if nobody ever paid me. When you do what you love, it doesn't feel like work. Yes, effort will be required. You may work very very hard. But since you love it, it gives you energy, instead of draining you.
With meaningful work, you tend to work harder than ever, but with much more satisfaction than you ever thought possible.
Some of you are probably familiar with Barbara Sher and her book "I could do anything if I only knew what it was". It's a wonderful book. In it she asks this question ---
What makes work meaningful?
Do thoughts of giving up all earthly possessions and working with the poor and underprivileged like Mother Teresa come to mind? Does it mean to find a cure for a deadly disease? Does it mean to negotiate a peace agreement for the Middle East?
But, as Barbara Sher notes, what happens when you hear someone say this: "When I walked into that bookstore I felt like I was home. I felt I was meant to work there. Everything I'd been and done until then fell into place".
Wow. I'd say that person found meaningful work, wouldn't you? Yet, there's nothing about curing cancer, or winning an Olympic metal, or eliminating world hunger in that little bookstore. But to this person, this was a way to spread her love of information, of books, to aid in literacy.
The next person might not get that all, but he might be a person whose heart belongs very much to children and giving them a voice.
Meaningful work is about what has meaning to you. It's as unique as you are. It's not something to be created -- it's something to be *discovered* your own backyard.
Doing what you love, something worthwhile, something meaningful are all the same thing.
Even mopping the kitchen floor, doing the laundry, or shopping for food can be meaningful and make you feel happy because you are tapping into your highest goal of "making a happy healthy home for me and those I love".
The point is that it doesn't matter what it is. It doesn't matter that it may never get you on CNN or the Oprah show. If it clicks with a goal that is important to you, then it is meaningful work.
Doing the work you love is a gift to the world. You are using your best abilities in the best possible way. You are doing something worth doing.
As noted in the book, Picasso wasn't trying to help anybody else. Yet he gave the world the most magnificent paintings. The scientist at 3M wasn't planning on changing the world when he *accidentally* invented Velcro. He was just experimenting, exploring -- doing what he loved to do.
Take a look at what you already are contributing every day. If it's taking care of toddlers, you've got the future lawmakers, teachers, politicians in your hands. If your work shows you injustices in the medical field, exercise your power to vote, to sue, to become an advocate.
Meaning in your every day work is right at your fingertips. But in order to find meaningful work, you have to give up the notion of doing something *huge*. All you have to do is do what's right for you.
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