It’s a fairly simple chain of causation:
Success comes from Productivity.
Productivity comes from Motivation.
Motivation comes from Meaning.
But where does Meaning come from?
It comes from a variety of factors that make you feel good about meeting your responsibilities and giving them your best effort. The more Meaning you get from your work and your life, the more likely you are to become successful.
Although your sense of Meaning is rarely static – it regularly fluctuates, just like most other rhythms and patterns in life – there are ways you can kick up your overall average and generally feel better about what you’re doing and why.
So let’s take a moment and consider some of the factors that can help you recognize and derive more Meaning from all the ways you currently spend your time:
This is certainly one of the most important factors that provide Meaning, regardless of what you actually do.
I remember a story (perhaps apocryphal, but that’s not important right now) of a dignitary visiting NASA during its moonshot phase, and asking a maintenance person working in one of the hallways what he was doing. His answer: “I’m helping put a man on the Moon.”
The point is that contributing – in almost any capacity – toward a goal you find important is all you really need to feel an overriding sense of Meaning. That’s one reason the more often you think about the important goals you’re helping to accomplish, the more Meaning you will feel in your work and your life.
Another source of Meaning in your work and your life is the feeling you get after completing specific tasks, projects, and goals. When these are important to you, such accomplishments come with a wonderful sense of Meaning. But even when they feel relatively unimportant, just the act of making an effort and finishing whatever you set out to do establishes that you have some impact on the world around you, and thereby contributes to a measure of Meaning.
Without changing your behavior, you can usually increase your sense of Meaning by keeping better score of all your accomplishments. You can also strive to be more ambitious or accept more responsibility, both of which tend to upgrade the level of Meaning you take away from your daily activities.
It’s also natural to feel a sense of Meaning from experiences that nurture your personal growth. When you’re learning, facing challenges, discovering more about who you are, or otherwise expanding your skills, abilities, understanding, and perspective, you’re likely to feel there’s significant Meaning to your daily activities.
The good news is this: when Meaning seems insufficient, you can often pump it up by increasing your opportunities for personal growth in any of a wide range of environments, organizations, and personal situations.
A surprisingly important source of Meaning is the breadth and depth of your relationships. Sharing moments of closeness, helping others and being helped, gaining and giving trust all contribute to the level of Meaning you feel in your work and your life.
In addition, relationships can also provide opportunities for personal growth, which is itself an important source of Meaning.
Whenever you’re feeling a lack of Meaning, it’s easy and almost certain you can find more of it by looking for opportunities to forge new relationships and deepen existing ones.
For a variety of reasons, the simple act of making your own choices in your work and your life is another great source of Meaning. Whether you choose to lounge in bed an extra 15 minutes one morning, take a different route to or from a frequent destination, cultivate a new hobby, or pursue a more rewarding career, you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction and – as you make more of your own choices – an enhanced level of Meaning.
Although you no doubt have some of these factors in play right now, you can – and probably should – consider ways to strengthen your connection with each and every one of them. After all, it’s pretty much impossible to experience too much Meaning in your work and your life.
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