The missing, essential ingredient for meaningful work

The missing, essential ingredient for meaningful work

Most of us want more from work than just a paycheck. We want a sense of belonging, identity, and purpose – the key components of a meaningful life.

“Over the past 30 years, Americans have identified meaningful work as the most important aspect of a job—ahead of income, job security, and the number of hours worked,” reports McKinsey & Company. For 70% of people, they found, sense of purpose comes solely from work.

Purpose and meaning offer a host of health benefits, both physical and mental, and is essential to work performance and commitment. Given this, meaningful work is a “need to have,” not a “nice to have.”

Unfortunately, only 50% of workers say they have meaningful work, McKinsey reports.

This is a shame because “any job can have meaning” according to the BBC and a host of research articles. There are factors that make a job more likely to feel meaningful – most notably strong relationships – but what makes a job “meaningful” is totally subjective. In fact, in one study researchers Jing Hu and Jacob Hirsch found that “55% of the jobs that were listed as meaningless by one participant were listed as meaningful by someone else.”

So what’s the most common missing piece in the meaningful work puzzle? 

Us making time and space to reflect on the work we’re currently doing.

Reflection Matters for Meaningful Work

Meaningful work isn’t something that we typically feel as we’re experiencing it, according to a 2016 study by business professors Catherine Bailey and Adrian Madden.

“Meaningfulness was rarely experienced in the moment,” they wrote, “but rather in retrospect and on reflection when people were able to see their completed work and make connections between their achievements and a wider sense of life meaning.”

Meaning hinges on a broad sense of coherence and connection, including a narrative about our identities and an awareness of how our actions impact others. MORE

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

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