Learning can make work more meaningful


If you want to make work more meaningful, it’s a safe bet it’s not going to be the result of feeling mired down, stagnant, and stuck.

Learning is a portal to destagnifying your situation, growing, and opening doors to possibility, all key elements as you explore how to experience more meaning in your job.

How learning makes work matter

Remember the simple definition of meaningful work we’re using?

Meaningful work = work that matters (and you decide what matters).

There are two broad ways that learning contributes to a feeling of meaning at work. One is directly tied to the learning (either what you’re learning or the process of learning matters to you). The other is what that learning enables (e.g., working toward an outcome that matters to you, or expanding your potential to achieve). Often it’s both.

Learning contributes to making your work matter in a wide range of ways, including:

Freshness & rut avoidance

It’s a basic piece of human nature that when we start to feel bored and in a rut, our interest starts to drift. Learning is a way to keep injecting fresh knowledge, activities, and possibilities into the picture. What feels fresh and interesting is more likely to feel like it matters.

Possibility expansion

Learning opens doors to new possibilities. With new possibilities come both the potential for achievement, new things to find meaningful, and the freshness mentioned above.

Perspective expansion

Expanding your perspective opens your mind. It allows you to see a wider picture of the impact you make, helps you see more possibilities, and helps you see a more comprehensive picture of how things work (which in turn sets up the potential to see additional ways to help).

Expansion of your potential to help others

This one is simple. The more you know, the more tools you have in your toolkit. Those tools (skills, subject matter expertise, how-things-work, etc.) expand your potential to help others.

Sense of purpose

Especially when it is combined with a vision for where you want to go and why, learning helps you engage with a sense of purpose.

Development of your natural abilities

Work can feel like it matters when you’re using your natural gifts and abilities. Learning is a part of developing those.

Increased sense of control

Learning can give you knowledge and skills that allow you to perform and achieve. With that ability to perform and achieve can come a greater sense of personal control.

Increased focus on your personal interests

Learning is a way to invite more of what you find interesting and compelling into the picture.

Social connection

Finally, learning is often a social experience. It can facilitate a connection with your co-learners (e.g., if you’re taking a class), and surround you with others who share similar interests.

To illustrate how learning can support meaning, here are a handful of examples of some of the reasons work might matter, and how learning contributes to that.

Work matters when…

  • It stimulates you intellectually, creatively, or even physically: Learning can have a stimulating effect in and of itself. It also gives you more to work with and opens up new areas for exploration and action.
  • It is going somewhere you care about: When work is aimed at an outcome that matters to you, it contributes to a sense of meaning. Learning can give you more tools, insights, and skills to achieve your objectives.
  • It is keeping you interested and engaged. Work can feel like it matters when it’s fresh and interesting. Learning by definition injects a fresh newness into the picture.
  • It’s a fun challenge. Work can feel meaningful when it presents a fun challenge. Learning can both open the door to engaging in challenge and give you the means to navigate them.
  • It expands your skills and abilities. Work can matter because it helps you grow. Learning is an inherent component of expanding your skills and abilities.
  • It gives you results. Achievement can be a source of meaning in your work. Learning gives you more to work with as you aim for those results.

In my next post, I’m going to look at how to take a more proactive and intentional approach to your learning to maximize your meaning at work. So stay tuned!

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

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