20 questions to help you make work meaningful

meaningful work

Much as I would like to offer it, there is no one-size-fits-all prescription for finding meaning in your work. Meaning is a custom job. What feels deeply meaningful to you might feel just so-so to your neighbor.

The goal of this series of posts on making work meaningful is to help you consciously, purposefully find a greater sense of meaning in your work. I want to help you take an intentional approach to building meaning into your career, rather than just guessing or lucking into it.

Since what feels meaningful is such a unique and individual thing, it stands to reason that the first and possibly most important thing is understanding where meaning comes from for you.

Rather than leaving you staring at a blank canvas in a mild state of panic (“How the hell do I know??? They never taught me that in school!!”), I’m kicking off the series with some questions to prime the pump on your personal exploration of meaning.

There is a bucketload of questions here. Don’t overwhelm yourself by feeling like you need to answer all of them (and possibly not answer any of them). Just scan through and see which ones catch your eye and start from there.

  1. What does meaning mean to me? (You can start out with this post offering a definition of meaning and build your own from there.)
  2. What feels meaningful to me? Why? (Just make a laundry list to start with – you can sort through it later to find the key themes.)
  3. If I could wave my magic wand and create a path chock full o’ meaning, what would I be doing? Why?
  4. What do I care about in my work? Why?
  5. What do I care about in my life? Why?
  6. If I could make one difference in my job, what would it be? Why?
  7. If I could make one difference in my life, what would it be? Why?
  8. Are there specific areas of focus that feel most meaningful to me? (e.g., social justice, environmental issues, helping people thrive.) Why do they feel so meaningful?
  9. Whom or what does it feel compelling to help? Why?
  10. What is more important to me than anything else in my career? If I could only pick one thing as my central focus, what would it be? Why?
  11. What is more important to me than anything else in my life? If I could only pick one thing as my central focus, what would it be? Why?
  12. If I didn’t get paid in money, but in the feeling I get from the impact my work makes, what would I do? What impact/difference would feel most compelling? Why?
  13. What, if any, meaning do I get from relationships and connection with others? What kinds of relationships and connections feel meaningful? Why?
  14. What kinds of interactions with others feel meaningful? Why?
  15. What is my current why? (Why do I do what I do? Why does it matter?)
  16. What is my ideal why? (If I had my ideal job, why would I do what I do? Why would it matter?)
  17. What do I value? Why?
  18. When do I feel most alive? Why?
  19. What lights me up? Why? (Check out this post to help you find your energizers.)
  20. When am I most motivated? Why?

You’ll notice that each of those is followed by, “Why?” Asking why is one of the best ways to unpack what’s there and get a deeper insight into what your initial answers mean.

Don’t expect to be able to come up with a crisp, clean picture of what meaning means to you. Think of it as sculpting your awareness out of clay. The first thing you need to do is get a lump of clay to start shaping. That’s what you’re doing with the initial exploration.

From there, you can continue exploring and refining. You can also use your everyday life as a learning laboratory, continually asking, “What feels meaningful here? Where does meaning feel like it’s missing? Why?”

Bit by bit, you’ll create a more deeper understanding of your own personal version of meaning. And the more clarity you have, the more potential you have to recognize both how it already exists and opportunities to bring more into your life.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

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  • Subramaniam Yokaselvi

    Meaningful work is a unique predictor of employee engagement. It would be a blessing to be working for an employer who strives to make work meaningful for its employees.

  • Absolutely! It always boggles my mind how many companies out there still have their views grounded in the industrial sweatshop mentality. It’s completely counter to their ultimate goal. Bit by bit I think that’s changing, though.

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