Oct 5, 2008

Meaning at Work a meaningless concept

Lot of people blog and write about finding meaning at work. I don't know why I am bothering to write. Maybe I believe that meaning is such an individual thing that one really cannot write it for a larger audience without being misunderstood or sounding very "wishy-washy"

What is meaning after all?

I believe that finding contentment is finding meaning - and you might have a very different way of describing it. Work and Careers even though it occupies a major part of our waking hours, still accounts for a small part of our life's importance. This is what keeps a lot of us from being truly engaged at work.

That's because for a lot of people work is a means to an end. When you ask them what is important in life - they would point to family, health and security. This often points to money - not work. Which is why when economic conditions are good people tend to hop jobs and when the conditions are not so great they hunker down and wait for the ill wind to pass.

Then there are those who believe that there can be meaningful work, but the mistake they make is that they assume that "meaning" is something external. Like a quest for the Holy Grail. Or the Higgs Boson particle, if you prefer a secular example.

But meaning, like peace- is a concept that is dependent on the person and not on external context. As one tenet of Logotherapy states:
We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stand we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.
But there are so many people urging people to "find" meaning at work that people keep looking for it in external aspects. Like enriched jobs. Or challenging work. Or flexible career options . Or alternate careers . Or entrepreneurship . Or having life-long employment. But having all or any of these won't guarantee people will find meaning in work.

We have to give that freedom to ourselves, as Viktor Frankl stated. That's what makes it such an individual journey and such a tough one. When one is lucky to discover that meaning - paradoxically to the law of attribution - one reasons it on external factors on not on something internal.

We've all come across those lucky few and they seem convinced that it was entrepreneurship/flexible work/alternate careers/ROWE that made their work meaningful and they sway us too. And then that leads to disappointment.

Discover your own meanings. Don't expect others to be able to advise you about it.