Finding Meaning in Life & Work

More and more I’m hearing from people that they want to feel their life has some meaning. They want their work to make a difference, and to have a positive impact. Amidst all the darkness of war, inflation, and one crisis after another; people are searching for meaning and for a sense of direction through all the negativity.

We hear a lot too about younger generations not being willing to just ‘get on with it’ anymore. They are pushing for change and organizations are being forced to listen and adapt in order to retain staff.

So what gives you meaning in your life? According to Positive Psychology research, there are 2 ways meaning arises:

1. You go find it – usually related to positive events such as marriage, having children, etc. This is where you readily connect an event to your pre-existing beliefs ‘Things are as they are meant to be’

2. You make sense of something, usually a difficult (or even traumatic) event, and then you create a sense of meaning out of that (eventually, and often with support). This can take a long time – we are constructing meaning, and going through a process to come to a sense of meaning. ‘Why did this happen to me? What does this mean?’

Having a purpose in life can give us a deep sense of meaning and fulfilment. Purpose acts as a filter – once we are clear on our purpose it helps us to filter out what is right for us and what is not. It acts as a guiding light in all our decisions. Meaning and purpose add greatly to our sense of long-term wellbeing and happiness. They give us resilience to get through the tough times. Imagine running a marathon just for the sake of it – it would be mentally gruelling and we might not get to the finish (or even to the start line). But if we’re running that marathon for a cause that is close to our heart, that sense of purpose can help us push through those tough training days and see it through to the end.

Often we begin our career wanting and needing to build experience, learn our subject matter, and get a step onto the proverbial career ladder. What I’m seeing is that by mid-life, once people get to a certain stage on the ladder or in their earnings, they begin to look for more – they want meaning and purpose, they want balance. And often they begin to look towards the future and what they will leave behind. Indeed I am meeting people at all ages and stages who want to have a positive impact; who want to make a difference with their lives and work, and need how they do this to be sustainable for them (financially and health-wise). I recently created my Legacy Program to meet this need, to help people create their own legacy so that they experience meaning and fulfilment whilst also contributing to the world (contact me if you’d like to learn more).  There are various steps you can take to create more meaning in your life, I hope you find the following tips useful.

          1. Values: identify your core values. Work out what is important to you and whittle it down to 3-5 values that are core to who you are, values that will remain with you and still be a priority for you in 25 years’ time. Our values inform our decisions and when we’re not aware of them we often make decisions that go against ourselves, causing inner distress. By getting clear on your values you will have a stronger sense of self. I will be offering free Core Values webinars a little further into the year to help you identify your values, so keep an eye out!

          2. Purpose: by integrating your experiences in life, especially your traumas, you will find a sense of purpose. Our purpose is intricately linked with who we are at our essence, including all that has happened to us. Our past informs our future; so if you want your future to be better and brighter, you need to work on accepting and healing your past. Your purpose comes from deep inside you and can act as a guiding light in your life. I am currently offering free Core Purpose sessions online, bringing participants through a powerful and profound process to gain a clear purpose statement for themselves – ask me about this if you’re interested in joining.

          3. Strengths: Look at your talents, your character strengths, and all that you are good at. Our true strengths energise us – they’re likely to be things you do every day, that you’re naturally good at, and that you enjoy and feel energised by. This is different to skills we have learned but that still tire us out (even though we may have got good at doing them). When we focus on our strengths and use them more, we reach into our potential and can excel. In my coaching (both 1to1 and in my group programs) I help people identify their many strengths and get familiar with how they can begin to use these to their benefit.

These 3 areas are core to who you are, the essence of you. By working to identify and gain clarity in these areas, you will build your relationship with yourself and feel more connected to what is meaningful in your life. A useful question to reflect on is this – Imagine you’re on your deathbed (many years from now) and you’re looking back on your life. Finish this sentence: “I wish I would have spent more time…..” Write down all that comes to mind. This little exercise can help give us perspective on what is important to us in life, and what really matters. And the reality is that none of us really know when that day will come (on the deathbed). I encourage you to take time to yourself to reflect on what I’ve written here today, identify what is important to you and begin to prioritise that this year, starting today.  And if this article calls to something deep inside you that would like more attention, get in touch with me, because this is the work I was born to do.