Why do you do what you do? We go through with actions day in and day out — we must assume that there is some sort of purpose behind them. When looking toward a career and deciding what it is that we wish to do for a living, there are many factors that we may consider. The amount of money we will make, the hours we will work, the setting that we will work in, whom we will work with, whom we will work under and in what city or country we will be situated are all important things to consider when deciding the career path that we wish to take.
But why is it that these are the factors that we contemplate? What is it that we really want from our individual careers? We want out of our careers what we want out of life: happiness. This seems to be the general theme throughout one’s life — a common search we all share. However, there are factors other than those we have say over that greatly influence how satisfied we are with our jobs and our workplace, as well as whether or not we enjoy what we do.
In a world where few things are certain and the purpose of life itself is obscured, our search for meaning is of the greatest importance. For this reason we attempt to give meaning to whatever aspects of our lives that we can, in hopes of achieving some level of contentment. When we work — no matter what your career — we expect that our work has some sort of meaning, purpose.
Not just the purpose of bringing about our next paycheck, but a meaning that goes beyond monetary gains alone. You may be surprised to hear that money can only motivate us so far. Sure, for some it is more motivation than for others, but financial stability or wealth is never an end in itself but rather a means or confirmation of another meaning.
Yes, if you get paid enough, you are likely to do just about any type of work. You may not wish to be a janitor, but if you were being paid $100k for each toilet you cleaned, you would do so without a complaint. However, this does not mean that you will enjoy the scrubbing down of shitters, only the money that you are being paid to do so.
So what is necessary for one to enjoy the actual work that one does? If money is not the main factor, then what is? In order to enjoy the work that we do, we must believe that said work holds some sort of meaning, that it has a purpose and will be used for said purpose. There is nothing more disheartening than seeing a project that you accomplished — and all the effort that went into it — be disregarded or thrown out.
When an employee is given a task to work on, she expects that the task not be pointless — that it will be used to further some purpose. Having such meaning in mind, an employee will enjoy working on the project — even if the work itself is mundane, laborious or simply unpleasant. Believing that the work that you are doing is not needless, makes the job much more bearable.
If one were to believe in the cause that such work is said to have been for the purpose of progressing, then one will enjoy the work — no matter how unpleasant the job itself may be. This is because we know that our efforts will serve a purpose, that there is a meaning behind the actions that we are taking and that our suffering is for a good cause.
Imagine how you would feel if after working on a presentation of some sort for weeks you were told that it was unnecessary — that the direction of the company has changed and that the focus of your presentation is no longer serving the purpose of the company. You just spent your time and energy working on something that has just been scrapped.
Although you may have enjoyed the work at the time, once you’ll find out that it was all a waste, you’ll be pissed. You will come to the realization that your efforts could have been entirely avoided and the world would not at all have been any different than it is at this moment. In other words, you made no difference.
That is what human beings truly crave: creating change. We wish to make a difference, to be of use and to be important. We want the work that we do to have an effect on the world. This is our way of confirming that we are not invisible, that we are not being overlooked, but are being heard and appreciated.
We want to be recognized for the work that we do and acknowledged for it as well. Life can at times seem pointless; the last thing we want confirmed is that our actions — our work and our career — are pointless. If you wish to have a career that you love and to enjoy all that you do, then you need to figure out where it is that you and your work fit in the grander scheme of things. Unfortunately, this greatly depends on outside variables.
You may personally give your work meaning or may believe your work to have meaning in the eyes of others when in reality it does not. Going back to my example before, if your superior does not appreciate your work or does not have a use for it, the meaning of the work is lost. Likewise, if your boss does not give you recognition for your work, does not acknowledge your work in some way or fashion, then you are bound to be unhappy at work. People do not give this its due importance.
Many find themselves miserable at their jobs even though they don’t mind the work in itself. Human beings do not like to blend in and simply be a small, unrecognized piece of a larger machine — we like to feel as if we hold importance. In order to love your career, you must find a company that acknowledges your existence and your effort. Or…you can become your own boss and give your work whatever purpose you desire. As long as you feel there is a reason for you to be doing what it is that you are doing, you will be much happier doing it.