An intentional focus makes work more meaningful


You can have meaning coming out your ears at work, but if your attention is habitually focused on what’s negative, the amount you’ll actually be able to feel is limited.

In an earlier post in this series on making work more meaningful I encouraged you to stop looking for meaningful work and start looking for opportunities to experience meaning at work. One way to work with that idea is to intentionally direct your focus (similar to my post on energizing your work by changing your focus).

Broadly speaking, you can do this in two ways:

  • Look for the meaning points (the opportunities to experience meaning)
  • Eliminate any focus on the negative

Focus on the meaning points

One way to focus on the meaning points is to regularly ask questions. Here is a list of questions to get you started. Some are pulled directly from the main categories of this series. Others are new additions.

  • What difference am I making here?
  • What difference could I make?
  • What am I grateful for today?
  • How am I growing? Where are the opportunities to grow?
  • Do I feel a meaningful connection with any of my co-workers? Could I cultivate one?
  • How is this helping me get where I want to go / achieve my goals?
  • What feels like a fulfilling challenge?

Clearly this isn’t an exhaustive list of questions. What other questions would you ask to aim your attention at the meaning points in your work? Challenge yourself to add to this list. You might even want to put it somewhere you can see it at work as a reminder and add to the list as more questions pop into your head.

Eliminate the negative

While directing your focus to the meaning points is a huge piece of the puzzle, it’s also important to direct your attention away from the negative.

Focusing on what’s negative – what you don’t like, what irritates you, how you feel limited, who drives you nuts – not only drains your energy, it’s also a great way to ensure that the negative takes up a big chunk of your field of view. That both paints your world in less-than-flattering colors and reinforces that way of seeing things.

Some of it really is as simple as choosing to stop. A great place to start is any complaining you do. Just as an experiment, go on a complaining fast for the next week. Any time you catch yourself wanting to complain, don’t. See what you notice.

Shift the negative

Another way to take the negative out of the picture is to start shifting it to something more constructive, or at least more neutral. For example, if you find yourself feeling irritated with how a co-worker is doing things, you can stop and ask, “What is another way of looking at this? Even if I don’t like what they’re doing, what is their positive intention here?”

Or if there is a situation you find troublesome, you can ask, again, “What’s a different way of looking at this? Is there any positive her that I’m not seeing? How might I benefit from this (even if it’s just practice navigating difficult situations more gracefully)?”

Simple math

Ultimately what I’m talking about here is simple math. If you add more of what feels meaningful to what you choose to focus on, and subtract more of the negative that’s getting in the way, your experience is likely to feel more meaningful.

That’s especially true in the long run, because doing that over time wears a groove in your mind and creates a habit. As the habit develops, the meaningful and fulfilling view naturally expands to fill a larger portion of the screen.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

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