Fun fact: I was once a senior editor at Cosmo. I even co-wrote Cosmo’s Aqua Kama Sutra (a waterproof (!) sex positions book). Genius, right?!
Though I loved researching all that ~spicy~ stuff, one of the most valuable pieces I wrote during my time at the magazine was about how life isn’t just happening to us. Every day, every hour, every nanosecond we have choices, and those choices have the power to fuel us with the positive energy required to kick butt in all aspects of life—work, home, love, all of it.
That realization changed the way I live and was the basis for what would ultimately become my new book (out February 23rd!) Your Fully Charged Life: A Radically Simple Approach to Having Endless Energy and Filling Every Day with YAY.
Below is a sneak peek of The Work Charge chapter, where I share the best ways to find meaning and purpose in what you do so that your job doesn’t feel like work.
More important than defining meaningful work, of course, is actually finding it or making our work feel more meaningful. Again, the research offers various ideas, theories and studies, models, and frameworks, but no simple answers. After digging into the science, however, three main themes seemed to keep coming up:
Purpose Beyond a Paycheck: The Why of Work
For the vast majority, the why is helping others in some way. In one study, when researchers asked what made someone’s work meaningful, 70 percent said helping others and 16 percent said contributing to a greater good. For some professions (nurses, firefighters, teachers . . .), it’s easy to recognize the meaningfulness of work. For the rest of us, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae or challenges of a job or feel like your day-to-day tasks are so far upstream from any human impact that we question whether we’re contributing anything meaningful at all. However, you can say that every job plays a role in making someone’s life better in some way. And the more you can see and connect with that, with how your work serves or benefits others—and “others” can be anyone or anything you deem important and worthy—the more meaningful you’re likely to find your job.
Positive Work Relationships: The Who of Work
In a sense, work is a microcosm of life, and just as positive relationships are a boon for well-being and can give our lives a sense of purpose and meaning, research suggests the same goes at work. We can all help make our workplaces and work culture kinder, gentler, and more fun. We can all foster a sense of belonging, community, and camaraderie, and give and get support (even if we’re working from home more). And when we do that, we leverage all the good things and opportunities relationships bring, and studies show it delivers; it makes work feel more meaningful.
For example, a survey found that strong social support at work coincided with a 47 percent higher rating of meaningfulness. Another showed that helping others was the one behavior most closely tied to feelings of meaningfulness. Work friends also celebrate our achievements, which helps develop a sense of meaning. Beyond meaning, science shows good workplace relationships help us thrive in other ways: We’re more motivated, engaged, happier, and more satisfied with our jobs. Having good friends at work may in-crease employee satisfaction by 50 percent and make work more worthwhile and fun.
On her last day, my predecessor at Woman’s Day, Susan Spencer, wrote the most touching goodbye post on Instagram that sums up the role work relationships play in how we feel about our jobs: “It will take a few days of processing, but I can say this: the people, the crew, my friends—they made this job the best ever. In 10 years I probably won’t remember what we made, but I will remember who made it.”
Capability and Accomplishment: The How of Work
Using your strengths, skills, and talents to complete tasks, reach goals, add value or otherwise make a positive impact in any way is closely tied to mean- ing. Researchers found that meaningfulness often grew from a sense of pride and achievement—the satisfaction of a hard day’s work and a job well done. Those things breed confidence and self-worth. And other research suggests that confidence in your abilities, feeling capable of doing your job and doing well, and having autonomy over how you do it all contribute to a sense of meaningfulness, too.
From YOUR FULLY CHARGED LIFE by Meaghan B Murphy, to be published on February 23 by TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Meaghan B Murphy.
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