Why Meaning in What You Do Is Important

How meaning and progress drives engagement, the bottom-line and results.

Meaning is something you create, not something that is. Meaning is a powerful tool as it can help you from dwelling on factors and conditions that are beyond your control; and you can create a little meaning for yourself, and others, every day. This helps to give people better focus and a sense of control as they work on what they can influence. Meaning is central not just to your personal purpose and existence but also to that of your organization.

Meaning is also important as it increases the level of individual and collective engagement, and this has been proven to contribute directly to the bottom-line as well as providing other benefits. Meaning occurs not just in what you do, but in the progress you make in what you do. As such it is small wins that generates meaningful progress. Research from Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer concluded: “Of all the events that engage people at work, the single most important — by far — is simply making progress in meaningful work.”

Meaning also provides intrinsic motivation and elevates your thinking above yourself and your own monetary needs. “Helping people focus on the meaning and impact of their work, rather than on, say, the financial returns it will bring, may be the best way to improve not only the quality of their work but also — counterintuitive though it may seem — their financial success” (Wrzesniewski).

Andrew’s 3 Steps for Creating Meaning

One of the most important elements of building a great career and life is attaching what you do each day to a broader mission. Until you understand how your efforts contribute to the world, you are simply going through the motions each day. Use these three steps for yourself, and your team, to create meaning by:

  1. Start by asking why your current job or role even exists. In most cases, jobs are created because they help another person, make a process more efficient, or produce something people need.
  2. Once you have identified how your efforts create a better life for others, consider what you could do to deliver a better product to the people you serve. This is the type of daily impact you can have in your interactions with your friends, family, colleagues, and customers. But it takes effort to determine exactly how your interactions charge the environment around you every day. Start by attaching meaning to small interchanges. Over time, you will be able to connect the dots between your efforts and a larger purpose.
  3. Identify one or two key actions that you can take, every day, which will help you to create the daily impact you are looking for.

Work on this for yourself, share it with your team and colleagues and get them to share theirs with you in turn. Work with each other to keep yourselves on track so that you can make these actions into new positive habits.

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