A season of purpose

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 90 views 


Amongst the laughter and shopping, baking and giving, decorating and partying lie reflective thoughts of one’s life dancing around in many people’s minds. Whether it’s for holiday cards to highlight one’s “year in review” or a time to see where life has been to focus on where it should lead, this is the season for personal and business reflection.

Reflection is a time to search for the meaning behind the actions, events and path one has been on and walking along in life. Boil all the drama, stress, and little things away and you’ll find a person yearning for meaning in their actions, love for their soul and purpose to lead them onward. Reviewing oneself from the inside out is a good exercise to ensure one’s life is headed in the desired direction. The same thing holds true for businesses, only add in a review of the market to make sure the business is remaining relevant to its customers.

Penelope Trunk, a popular career and inspirational blogger, has explored the meaning or work through several posts throughout the past few years. In a recent blog post, she continues her investigation between work and life’s purpose.

She suggests people work for meaning over prestige and the meaning of the work is in alignment with a person’s life purpose that utilizes the unique gifts and talents that each person possesses.

The following is quoted from “Making Work Meaningful” where Trunk notes five keys that work and a career can provide:
Meaningfulness comes from relationships
Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research about happiness and work (compiled into a book I like: “The How of Happiness”) found that janitors are happier than lawyers and the discrepancy arises from the amount of meaningfulness they perceived in their work.

The janitors felt that they were helping people by keeping the school running well. They knew the students and the teachers and they had a nice relationship with them: people asked for help, the janitor gave help, the person thanked the janitor.

With the lawyers, it’s the opposite. People hate having to ask a lawyer for help. They want the lawyer to solve their problems, but in general, you only call a lawyer when you have a problem you will not be able to get out of without one. So the lawyer can’t really make people feel good. On top of that, a lawyer charges by the hour so there is almost never a thank you in exchange for a small piece of work.

Meaningfulness comes from feeling some control
Having control over one’s job and an ability to make a difference — through meeting goals, saving lives, solving problems — is what enables people to enjoy their work, according to research published in The Economist. The prestige of the given job is not nearly as important as being able to have an effect. If jobs are not challenging enough, then people are not happy because they don’t have a feeling of affecting someone else.

Management creates meaning
The relationship between a boss and an employee should be very meaningful. A manager’s job is to make people shine, to show them they can do more than they ever imagined and to make employees excited to come to work. Management’s job is to create meaningful work.

In the same vein, an employee’s job is to make their boss’s life better. Whatever you were hired for, whatever that job description said, the bottom line is that you are there to solve your boss’ problems. You will feel good at work if you are making your boss happy – it’s a symbiotic relationship.

Creating meaning yourself is empowering
How you treat people and how you relate to communities and society is where you get your meaning. Work is just a great platform to create that meaning.

Look for opportunities
Work has meaning because it provides stability in our lives, and we create meaning by helping co-workers to use that stability to be brave and strong in the rest of life. Look around you, all the time  –look for people at work who need help with their work. Caring for your co-workers might be the most meaningful part of work for all of us.

Stockman can be reached at
[email protected]