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Is your work meaningful?

Meaningful work may be the key to a meaningful life

The Quest for a Meaningful Life


"If you want to utterly crush a man, just give him work that's of a completely senseless, irrational nature." - Fyodor Dotoevsky

I was leafing through the pages of a book, Bringing Up Boys, by Dr. James Dobson, and came upon a passage that gave a fresh and deep perspective on the significance of finding meaning in daily life and meaning in work and daily tasks. He describes a WWII concentration camp near Hungary where the prisoners were forced to move a mountain of dirt from one side of the camp to the other. As soon as they finished, they were forced to begin moving it back to the other side. After a few weeks, a total breakdown of spirit began in the people. Men who had survived the camps for years committed suicide. Others went mad, running and being shot down. As it turned out, the entire exercise was a horrifically cruel experiment to see how people would cope with being given a long-term, totally meaningless task. As was so apparent, meaningless work has far-reaching effects on one's emotional stability and even on the desire to continue living a life that is void of meaningful work.

We can look at our own lives and see some of this effect. Have you felt trapped to near desperation in a job that, for you, seemed repetitive and mindless? Have you ever felt angry or discouraged when you turned in a requested report, for which you were well paid, only to find that it sat on the boss' desk unread? How about the time you made a really delicious dinner that was eaten quickly and without comment?

I wonder too, about how we might be affected by ignoring our own quiet discontent. Could we be doing stealthy, hidden damage to ourselves by pretending that a lack of real meaning in our work doesn't matter? Perhaps we even fill the void with mindless chatter, shopping, food, alcohol, or other numbing behaviors. Perhaps we convince ourselves that the money we earn is worth it.

Make an effort to find meaning. Look to create meaning in your life, even if you feel that your daily job is meaningless. We should all be capable of creating meaning by observing how we may contribute or gain value from life situations. It may be as simple as saying a silent prayer for a co-worker.

Possibly one of the most powerful ways to add meaning in life is by expressing love. Find as many ways as possible to share love - a smile, extra care on a task, a kind word, a compliment, sharing something, writing a short note, encouraging someone, or any number of ways. Consciously add love to whatever you are doing. Try saying a short, sincere blessing on a project, a letter, a file, even on the widgets you are working on. Add value to everything you come in contact with by simply imagining that you are sending out waves of love.

Take action now to add meaning to your work. It may profoundly change the quality of your life.


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