Make work more meaningful: 11 ways to bring your heart to work
If you want a simple way to experience more meaning in your work, there’s one super-simple way to do it without changing a thing about the job itself.
Yep. That’s it. Easy, right?
If putting those two words together caused your brain to wobble and bobble a bit, you’re not alone. Working and loving are two concepts that don’t automatically seem to go together in most people’s minds. You may even actively hold back from the idea of showing love at work. Love?? How unprofessional!
If that’s you, I can tell you that you’re missing a key piece of the meaningful work puzzle.
I would even go so far as to say that if you could do only one thing to bring a greater sense of meaning into your work, it would be this.
Bring your heart to work
At the center of the Wild About Work model is the idea of bringing your heart to work. That’s about showing up with love and compassion, both for yourself and for others.
In this post, I’m going to focus on love and compassion for others.
Bringing your heart to work is about opening the door to connection, to service, and to vulnerability. It’s about showing up in a way that lifts and supports the people around you. It’s about being willing to be real and authentic, and holding space for others to do the same.
Bringing your heart to work creates the potential for a deeper, richer experience that benefits both you and the people around you. Coming out from behind the armor and facade creates an opportunity for a depth of connection with both people and your experience that can never be had hiding behind a “professional” mask.
11 ways to love at work
There are a bazillion ways that love can show up in your work life. Here are a few examples.
1. Look for opportunities to help and support
Make it a habit to look for opportunities to help the people around you. Maybe it’s an official part of your job, leveraging your knowledge and skills in a way that has a positive impact on someone else’s job. Maybe it’s an unofficial role, like mentoring new hires. Or it could even be sharing knowledge and ideas with a co-worker around something in their life that has nothing to do with work.
2. Communicate healthily
How you communicate is one of the biggest ways to bring your heart to work. Does it open the door to connection and understanding, or does it feed conflict and divisiveness. Does it acknowledge the shared humanity of the other person, or does it make them an “other” to be dealt with? Does it encourage people to open up and fly, or shut down and protect themselves? Does it enable a healthy resolution of challenges, or does it pour fuel on them?
3. Express gratitude
Make it a point to sincerely thank people whenever the opportunity arises. This is a two-way street. The recipient gets the good feeling of being appreciated, and you get to bask in gratitude – a heart-based activity if ever there was one.
4. Acknowledge others
Along similar lines, sincerely acknowledging others’ efforts and achievements can be a way to work from the heart. It’s a validating and encouraging practice that requires little investment on your part, but has the potential to make a significant impact for the receiving party. And in the go-go, results-driven environment of today’s workplace, that kind of reinforcement is often all too infrequent.
5. Pay sincere compliments
Make it a habit to pay sincere compliments. That could be about something work-related, or something completely tangential to work, like their sweater, or a piece of art on their wall.
6. Be attentive
When was the last time someone was truly, 100% attentive to what you were saying? How did it feel? Good, I’m guessing.
Unfortunately, there is a chronic shortage of attentiveness in our culture. We’re incessantly listening in order to talk, rather than listening to understand. Conversations become self-absorbed tennis matches rather than opportunities to connect and comprehend.
Being 100% attentive when someone is talking is a way to love at work because it communicates, “You’re important. What you say matters. I’m listening.”
7. Be interested
This one is related to attentiveness. Here the opportunity is to get beyond the surface level volleys of conversation and listen at a deeper level. Stop and be fully present with the person you’re talking to. Ask them questions. Reflect what you hear and show that you get what they’re saying.
The idea here, again, is to send a message that, “Yes, you matter. You merit attention and interest.” In today’s short attention span culture, that message is often in short supply.
As an added bonus, asking questions and paying attention often shines a light on ways you can help people.
8. Be a source of positivity
How you show up adds to the collective experience in your workplace. You can either be one of the Gang o’ Grinches hanging out around the water cooler and bitching, or you can add a positive perspective to the mix.
You don’t have to be a naive Pollyana. Simply refraining from unnecessary negativity and focusing on what’s good can have a big impact, especially over time.
9. Show patience
We live in an impatient culture. Showing patience is a gift of love. Not only does it create more space for your interactions to unfold positively, it also reduces the negative impact of impatience-driven conflict.
You don’t work with co-workers. You work with people. Opening yourself to connection with the people you work with takes you out of cogs-in-a-machine mode and creates the possibility of more meaningful experiences.
11. Facilitate connection
Just as connecting with other people is one way to bring your heart to work, facilitating connection between others is another. This might be as simple as instigating a regular lunch with the people you work with, or an after-work social hour. The more people see each other as people rather than roles and titles, the more potential love has to show up.
Putting it to work
That’s all nice and lovely, but unless you actually put some of those ideas into play, it will remain meaningless.
Try this: For the next week, do a bring-your-heart-to-work experiment. Look for opportunities to come from that heart space and do it.
Before you start, use the list of ideas above as a starting point to brainstorm specific ways you could bring your heart to work. The idea is to make it easier by creating a mental grab bag you can reach into and pull out heart-actions.
You might draw a heart on a sticky note and stick it by your desk as a reminder. Or set a timer to go off at intervals throughout the day as a reminder to stop and ask, “Where are the opportunities to come from the heart right now? What opportunities have I encountered today?”
Give it a shot and see how it feels. If you like it, try extending the experiment to 30 days.
Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM
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