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Meaningful work: how to find and get paid for it

by | Jan 1, 2019

You spend over a third of every waking week at work.
It can be disheartening to do this just for the money, to say the least.
Here’s how to find meaningful work that provides you with happiness as well as money

You probably spend over a third of every waking week at work. Yes, you need to fulfil your lower order needs for food, shelter and security. Money will therefore be a key driver of your work. However, it would be disheartening to do this just for the money, to say the least. Meaningful work is as important as money, if not more so.
In fact, you might well see work as an opportunity to achieve your higher order needs. Fulfilment, self-esteem, creating change for the better, social benefits, meaning and happiness are all equally important reasons why you might want to go to work every day.

Money and happiness

You probably know instinctively that money does not buy happiness.
Research confirms this. Ed Deiner, Dave Myers and others have shown that happiness increases as you earn more money. However, financially induced happiness plateaus at earnings of around $75,000 pa. Earning more than this does little to increase happiness. In fact, Dave Myers found that over one third of the wealthiest people in the US were less happy than the average American.
And at the societal level the same applies. The wealth in the United States as an entity doubled between 1957 and 1995, but the happiness levels didn’t change. A wealthier society doesn’t, it seems, guarantee a happier society

Meaningful work and happiness

In fact, the core drivers of happiness for those with incomes in excess of $75,000 pa are social connection, community, making a difference and  helping others. This conforms to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The basic needs for food, shelter and security are probably covered by an annual income of $75,000. This why larger incomes don’t add much to your sense of happiness.
However, meaningful work may well address those higher order needs, not least that of self-actualisation (the fulfilment of your potential) that Maslow put at the top of the pyramid.
Work can be a powerful source of those drivers of happiness I listed above. If you spend so much of your time at work, then you will want to find meaningful work that provides you with both money and happiness.

How to find meaningful work that is financially rewarding

I recorded a conversation with US careers coaching expert Kim LeClair a few days ago in which we discussed this question in some depth and you can watch the video presentation we produced.
In short, we agreed that you need a system. If you take a haphazard approach you will get there, although it will take much longer. We identified six stages to this process.
  1. Discover yourself. Work out who you are. In the words of Bernadette Jiwa in her book Story Driven, ‘You don’t need to compete when you know who you are.’ You might also find it helpful to re-read my post on self-awareness.
  2. Discover your purpose, ambition, passion. It sounds simple and yet its often not that straightforward. There are a number of exercises you can do to help.
  3. Identify the rewards you want. I’ve described the spectrum of rewards that work can provide, from money at one end to pure meaning at the other. Where on that spectrum will you be most happy?
  4. Publicise. Think of yourself as a business and act accordingly by developing your own website, brochure, profile, networking strategy etc.
  5. Get the rewards. Go for what comes up. If it doesn’t seem right, go back and restart the process incorporating the lessons you have learnt.
  6. Refine. Don’t settle. Keep looking. Keep getting better.

Meaningful work comes in many forms

The word ‘work’ conjures up visions of salaried employment with a single business. Of course there is much more to it than that. ‘Career’, ‘occupation’ or ‘vocation’ may be better terms.
The word I prefer is ‘opportunity’. Opportunities are a much wider concept than ‘work’ and have the potential for greater meaning than work. Opportunities encompass everything from self-employment, partnerships, projects, joint ventures and problems with the potential to become opportunities. Many opportunities with a range of different benefits might lead you towards a portfolio life.
In the video I tell the story of Jeff and Andy who had a problem with razors. They worked out how to solve it for the many people with the same problem as well as for themselves, founding Harry’s to do so and no doubt finding deeply meaningful as well as financially rewarding work in the process.
Credit: Bardolino Canvas photo by Eddy Klaus on Unsplash

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