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What to Do When Work Feels Meaningless

https://hbr.org/2020/06/what-to-do-when-work-feels-meaningless

hbr.org

What to Do When Work Feels Meaningless
Step one: focus on what you can control.

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A feeling of purpose

A feeling of purpose

During crises, we can feel a heightened sense of purpose and connection. Crises lead many people to find deep value in their work, develop professionally, and grow personally.

While most of us don't have frontline roles, we can still discover ways to contribute through our everyday work.

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Small actions

You may feel overwhelmed and obsess over the big things you can't influence. Instead, try to act on whatever aspect you can control, regardless how small.

Try a number of things and see what works. Small actions can generate feedback and allow you to discover more meaningful goals.

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Consider your unique skills

Proactive employees use an approach where they redesign their work to better fit their strengths and interests.

During the current crisis you can fight the recession by keeping your business functioning, thereby feeding families. More significantly, you can shape your job to contribute solutions to the current problems of your community. By partnering with others, you can maximize your impact.

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An opportunity to connect

If you're in a tight situation, you may not be able to do much to enhance the meaningfulness of your work. However, you can find meaning by envisioning the future.

Think what your potential dream job might be in 10 years' time. Imagine many jobs. Now work backward to find the paths that will lead you there. Also explore where your current projects and passions could lead you.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Meaning in Life

  • Many of us struggle with finding meaning, as we are busy with our daily work and distractions.
  • Meaning in life provides us with the purpose of getting up daily, energized and pepped up...

Meaningful Work

21–35% of our life is spent at work, making it a crucial part of our lives to spend at something we find meaning in.

Meaningful work should be:

  • Motivating and purposeful.
  • Should be coherent and make some sense.
  • Should be significant.

Connected with a Purpose

Meaningful work is when we feel a genuine connection with what we do for a living and our larger spectrum of life.

It is motivating, creates deep relationships and helps others.

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Avoid willpower depletion

Building willpower is similar to building muscle. Continually exercising without giving yourself a break is not the best way to increase your strength or performance.

Do...

Use your imagination

Imagination can blunt the cravings that erode your self-control.

If you imagine lying on a peaceful beach, your body will respond by relaxing. If you imagine being late for an important meeting, your body will tense in response. Use this to your advantage in building willpower.

Think about something else

You can even use your imagination to keep unwanted thoughts away.

Every time that unwanted thought occupies your mind, consciously think about something pleasant instead.

Our culture of work

Our culture claims that work is unavoidable and natural. The idea that the world can be freed from work, wholly or in part, has been suppressed for as long as capitalism has existed.

Exploring the abolition of work

  • In 1885, socialist William Morris proposed that in the factories of the future, employees should work only four hours a day.
  • In 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that advances in technology would lead to an age of leisure where people might work 15 hours a week.
  • Since the early 2010s, these ideas have been developed further, creating a growing critique of work as an ideology, and exploring alternatives to work.
  • Post-work offers enormous promises: In a life of much less work, life would be calmer, more equal, more communal, more pleasurable, more thoughtful, more politically engaged, more fulfilled.

Work ideology

The work ideology is not natural nor very old.

  • Before the modern era, all cultures thought of work as a means to an end, not an end in itself.
  • Once the modern work ethic was established, working patterns started to shift. Between 1800 and 1900, the average working week shrank from 80 hours to 60 hours, and in the 1970s to roughly 40 hours.
  • In 1979, Bernard Lefkowitz related in his book that people who had given up their jobs reported feelings of "wholeness." During the same period, because wages were high enough, it became possible for most people to work less.
  • During the 80s, work ideology was reimposed by aggressively pro-business governments who were motivated by a desire for social control.
  • By the early 21st century, the work culture seems inescapable.