How to Find Meaning in Tedious Work

find-meaning-in-tedious-workYour tasks may not be making you unhappy at work, but they may not be making you happy either.

One thing I’ve learned over the past three years of researching work happiness is that work doesn’t make you unhappy. Only you can do that.

But what about great work?

Does work that fits with your passion and strengths make you happy?

For me it’s a resounding - Yes!

The reason is that I am able to feel connected with this type of work.

Doing great work does make me happier. When I’m working on a blog post that I know will change people’s lives for the better, I feel happy and excited.

Purpose

Great work makes me feel like I have a purpose.

This emotional connection to fulfilling work makes me happy, and these feelings then go beyond me.

Let’s say I love building model airplanes. I could do this day and night because it fits my needs to do detailed work. This makes me feel happy, but there is no greater good. I’m just doing this for myself.

If I’m building a model airplane to give to sick children at the local hospital, the emotional connection is easy to see. Then I’m doing work that feels meaningful.

On the opposite spectrum, if I’m doing work that I can’t connect with then I’m extending my frustrated feelings beyond myself.

Several years ago, I was the caretaker of large property in PA for about 4 years. I essentially mowed grass for a living. It paid the rent, but I viewed the work as pointless because the grass was only going to grow back. I remember thinking to myself, I’ll just have to do it all over again in two weeks. By thinking these thoughts, I attached my feelings of meaninglessness to my effort. I only upset myself more by extending my negative feelings, and I was unable to see the greater good of my actions.

Finding the Connection

If I could have found a connection to how cutting someone’s grass mattered beyond my own feelings, I could have felt happy about my work. I could have viewed my grass cutting work as a way to help people feel proud of their home. I know I would have enjoyed the thought of helping people appreciate their home, and this would have helped me appreciate my own actions. Instead of focusing on the fact that the grass would just grow back in two weeks, I could have focused on the positive reactions of the property owners when they pulled into their driveway and saw the perfectly cut grass.

If you can find work that makes you feel good while also giving you a greater purpose, now we are talking about work bliss. This is a rare state and hard to reach, but one that I recommend that you strive for.

Usually, before you are aware of a project/task, you are in a neutral state. It’s only when you extend your emotions (grasping) that you become happy or sad/angry/upset. Whether you are grasping for positive or negative feelings, you often end up pushing yourself out of rhythm. You become emotionally connected to pain and/or joy.

It’s important to be able to let go and find that natural pull toward the work that inherently makes you feel excited, proud and joyful.

Don’t force the issue. Let the feelings come and then try to steer them toward the positive aspects of your work. The more you practice this, the easier it will get. You’ll slowly start to see joy come out of even the most mundane work.

When you are able to feel connected to a greater purpose, you can almost always find the positive in your work. The more you study your own reactions the easier it will be to do work that connects you to a larger purpose.

How about You?

What type of work makes you feel good and serves a greater purpose in your life?

Need a boost in your work happiness. Then check out Happy at Work Project and start one yourself.

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Stacey Shipman recently wrote a wonderful post called "How I Found “Work Happiness”, Finally." It's a great take on happiness at work, so go check it out.

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Image courtesy of Beige Alert.

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