What to Do When Work Feels Meaningless

<b>It is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work. </b>– Jim Collins

Work is an essential element of our lives. It’s where we spend a great deal of time and also what can contribute to our sense of self-confidence, achievement, pride, and most importantly, purpose. 

But what can we do if work begins to feel meaningless and gives us none of the things it should be giving? Let’s see.

When work becomes meaningless, we have a few options. The first option, but not always the right one, is to shift work. We might look for a new workplace, if the problem seems to be with the people. We might change jobs if the work itself has stopped bringing fulfillment. But this is not always an option, because we might not know what we want. It might also not be the most practical solution. 

You can try to find meaning in smaller parts of your work. Perhaps your colleagues or students add to the experience. Maybe there are parts you dislike, but you can focus on those you enjoy or find important. The rest is just busywork, annoying, but necessary.

However, we can also find meaning in whatever work we do. The first way of doing this is to focus on the positive impact. Who are you helping, if not directly, then indirectly? What mark are you leaving in the world? There are very few jobs that help nobody, so this is one way of feeling closer to your work.

Another way is to center what the job is doing for you and those you love. Is it helping you fulfill your goals? Is it bringing you the funds and resources that allow you to survive and maybe even thrive? Is it helping your family stay afloat? This is a way to find meaning: it’s not something you do for its sake, but for your sake and that of the people you love. 

<b>Sometimes, work is just what you do for survival. It’s not ideal, and it’s important to begin looking for better things. However, the survival can be the meaning, for the time being. </b>

You will always be able to find bigger and better things. However, finding meaning here and now can motivate you more and help you do well for yourself.