As a kid, I loved listening to my mother tell us the story of the traveler and the three bricklayers. The protagonist of the narrative comes across a group of hard at work bricklayers and inquires as to their occupation. They all did the same work, but the bricklayers’ perceptions of it were quite different. Great lessons may be learned from this allegory.
Happiness and contentment come when we realize our efforts are making a positive impact on the world, when we realize that the “bricks” we are building are part of a larger structure. We can all take inspiration from that enthused bricklayer and actively look for value in our job. The “why” underlying our actions isn’t always immediately apparent, but it’s always there.
Workers are happier in their employment when they have a sense of purpose, according to a poll of more than 2,000 American professionals from 26 different fields. Employees who feel their job makes a difference to the world are more likely to be rewarded with promotions and salary increases, according to the same poll.
These results show clearly that the greatest thing we can do for our jobs is to seek out meaning in our work each day.
However, it is one thing to have this knowledge and another to put it into practice. That’s why it’s important to develop what I call the “meaningfulness habit.”
Methods for Developing a Work Habit of Meaningfulness
This is how it functions: Before beginning every new endeavor, Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? Just what is the point of this exercise?”.
For example, Brendon Burchard recommends “Release Tension, Set Intention” from his book High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way.
This means seeing the inevitable changes in our daily routines, such as when we go from eating to working, writing to attending a meeting, or talking on the phone to sending emails, as moments to relax and refocus before diving into something new.
Next, we may infuse more meaning into the work at hand and make ourselves more driven to accomplish it by pausing at each task shift throughout our days and asking ourselves why we’re doing something before we do it. A meaningful outcome may be something big like advancing a cause you care about or helping other people, or it could be something modest like gaining some mental clarity or making progress toward a personal goal.
All work doesn’t have to contribute to global peace, but it should make you feel good in some way, whether it’s a little glimmer of joy, a deep sense of fulfillment, or an increased capacity for concentration.
It’s possible that the only purpose you find is the need to appease your employer so you can maintain your job and provide for your family. This is especially true with boring, repetitive tasks. And that’s perfectly fine!
We may see this in the following illustrations:
In what way will giving this presentation benefit anyone? Because I want to see more people get behind this great cause.
What’s the point in my clearing up my inbox? With the hope of relieving some of my tension and leaving feeling less burdened.
To what end am I completing this spreadsheet? That we may maintain accurate records for teamwork purposes.
I don’t see the point in my attending this gathering. To back up my coworkers and pitch in where I can.
It’s possible to give our work purpose even if it doesn’t result in a physical structure, like the bricklayers’. It may be a springboard to better things; a chance to set an example for others; a tool to express ourselves; or a means to fund our golden years. There isn’t a terrible excuse.
Whatever it is that we’re doing, there must be some point to it, or else we wouldn’t be doing it. This is encouraging since it implies that one may perpetually seek for and discover a greater significance or meaning to the things they do.
If you find that you are overall still unhappy after applying this technique to your everyday life, you might want to consider reading “Valid Reasons to Leave Your Current Job”