Finding purpose and meaning in your life is fast becoming a hot topic and rightfully so, with it correlating so heavily to higher income, increased joy and a lower risk of dying.1
For some of us, we can find purpose, meaning and a lot of fulfillment from our work. But that’s not true for everyone and quite frankly, it’s about time we became okay with this.
I think back to one of my first jobs – waiting on cars at the drive-in diner – and I have the fondest memories. I learned what it meant to be a co-worker, what it meant to be responsible for your schedule and requesting time off in advance, how to treat customers like they mattered no matter how small their order, how to brighten someone’s day with a smile, and how to pay important bills like car insurance. And I got free ice cream (at 16 this seemed as great as any health benefit you could offer me). I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world and the money I made helped fulfill a very rich life outside the drive-in. I bought my own car, kept the wardrobe I wanted, went out with friends when I wanted to, and never once did I have to beg, borrow or steal money from my mom. It was liberating!
But as much as I loved that job and everything I gained from it, I would be hard pressed to say that I found some greater meaning and purpose. I didn’t live for my job back then. I worked to earn money for the life I wanted to live, which was what fulfilled me and gave me purpose in life.
I know people today that live for what they do – it fills their bucket and brings them meaning that some of us could never even imagine is possible. And I know people that just want to clock in, clock out and get a paycheck so they can live their life fully. They have no great desire to climb the corporate ladder unless it benefits their greater life in some way. And I know people that find a little meaning in their job and really love their co-workers, but they don’t necessarily want to live just to work.
The truth is, we need all of these people. Not everyone can be CEO (that would be really messy), so why aren’t we more eager to celebrate those that find just a little meaning in their job or those that show up, do great work and go home? If the work is great and more importantly, it’s done, can that be enough for us? Can we finally let go of this idea that everyone everywhere thinks of work like their lover?