Every day you make a decision. You choose whether to inhibit or enable, deprive or nourish, challenge or support. You also decide how you feel about your work. Alright, so your work evokes an emotion for which you control how you feel - you get the point.
The challenge in finding a connection to your work doesn't rest squarely in the work itself. It lies with the 175 cognitive biases at play on your psyche at any given time. In other words, your place in work - and work's fit into your life for that matter - manifest by the story you tell yourself.
It's obvious when you're engaged in your work. Instead of saying, "I have to go to work," you say, "I get to go to work." Your family, friends, and colleagues all take notice. When you hardwire yourself to operate from this genuine place of purpose, it has a positive cascading effect. That inner smirk manifests as an outer beam.
So how do you bend your perspective and alter the way you feel about what do? Well like so many other things, through small nudges.
To find meaning in work you'd don't need that dream job (although it can't hurt). What matters, is feeling a connection to what you do. The pride you feel in your work is dependent on the effort-reward equation you've fashioned. Some folks call this the struggle.
"When one isn't dominated by feelings of separateness from what he's working on, then one can be said to 'care' about what he's doing. That is what caring really is, a feeling of identification with what one's doing. When one has this feeling then he also sees the inverse side of caring, Quality itself," claimed Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It's this capital 'Q' Quality that we're all searching for.
Funnily enough, the strongest indicator of whether you have Quality at work is whether you believe you're making progress towards meaningful work. Known as the progress principle, it's about those incremental advancements that happen through small wins. The question to ask is, 'Are you on the path to doing your most meaningful work?'
For others, making progress may involve turning the forsaken job they have into one they love. By reshaping work tasks, relationships with colleagues, and their own perception - job crafting becomes a powerful way to do this.
As more companies hire hunger over talent, the job crafting strategy will prove essential from an organizational standpoint. Businesses cannot innovate if everyone within them feels uninspired.
Too many people suffer through work when they could be surfing through it. So if reconfiguring your job doesn't do the trick, quitting will. I'm well aware that this is not a realistic option for many. But you know those people that actually can quit, yet always make excuses. The Struggle for these folks is, "When people ask [them] why [they] don't quit and [they] don't know the answer," writes Ben Horowitz.
In theory, you want to feel the fruits of your labor. In practice, you must appreciate what you contribute to work. And more to the point, you must recognize others in their work to give them that feeling that you yearn for.
"A sense of appreciation is the single most sustainable motivator at work," explains Wharton professor Adam Grant. Extrinsic measures (pay and status) only go so far in bringing a sense of fulfillment. It's those intrinsic ones, your inner working life and the support of your peers that inevitably creates Quality.
There are several factors at play for how you will shape your view of work. In the end, crafting a meaningful work life is something only you control. We can all choose to act as catalysts for one another. It changes not only how we work together, but it can change the world.
I'm Jonas. I write and talk about work. Join thousands and get my monthly digest here