You Don’t Need to Save Lives to Find Meaning in Your Work

My wife and I do very different things. I sit in front of a computer all day, get to work pretty much the hours I’d like to work (within reason), and I don’t have to put pants on. Erin is a nurse, who works 12 hour shifts, taking care of the some of the sickest people in the hospital. Her bad day is much worse than my bad day. But when I say that, she tells me I shouldn’t devalue my work, and that I can still talk about my bad days to her; it’s not a competition. I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago, when in the Post Status community, we were presented with this question: Do you ever struggle with feeling like the work you do* isn’t meaningful (eg compared to doctors etc.)? How do you cope with that? The conversation was great with a wide range of answers. I’m lucky enough to not have to struggle find meaning in my work, and here’s why.

*This is a community made up mostly of developers and designers.

To Find Meaning, Love What You Do

My answer to the question was this:

Generally I think it’s all relative, and if you get enjoyment out of your work (whether that’s by helping people, scratching your own itch, or something else), then your work is meaningful.

This is a sentiment I truly believe. I love what I do, and have since I was 15 (that’s 16 years!). I find meaning every day because not only do I get to push myself to new limits, learn new things, and actually create, but I also help other people realize their goals or even dreams.

If you truly enjoy your work, then it is meaningful. Click To Tweet

The Cycle of Meaningful Work

This leads to what Jonathan Christopher had to say on the matter (the heading is totally stolen from him, by the way):

When you build sites for great clients doing great things, you’re in a way working with them to do their work by proxy. I liked that thought…Makes me want to continue building the best sites I can that are the easiest to work with for our clients so they can spend less time tinkering and more time doing what they do.

If you develop a website for a non-profit to help them raise money, a church to bring a community together, a hospital, a school, or a business that helps people, you’re helping people by proxy. That’s a wonderful way to look at it, and enables you to view your work in a different light. It also means that you can affect lots of different industries that help all sorts of people.

Enabling others to do meaningful work makes your work just as meaningful. Click To Tweet

Bring Meaning to Your Work by Teaching

After that, the conversation turned towards perhaps one of the most meaningful and important jobs on the planet: teaching. The beautiful thing about basically any field is that there is a stream of people who want to learn, and they need someone to teach them.

Teaching is one of the most meaningful things you can do. Click To Tweet

The old addage is, Those who can’t do, teach. I think it’s more like this: if you want to really feel the impact of what you do, teach. This doesn’t mean you have to be in a classroom teaching at the elementary school, high school, or college level. You can write blog posts, do webinars, create an online course, or mentor. Give folks the opportunity to learn from your experience and it will serve them for a long time.

I had a mentor when I started freelancing in high school and his advice was invaluable; it’s stuff I still apply to this day. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am without him.

Your Work is What You Make of It

While I have the utmost respect for everyone in the medical field, you don’t need to save lives to bring meaning to your work. It’s all about your mindset and how you view what you do. You can find meaning through enabling others, supporting your family, teaching your trade, or just loving what you do. A lot of people can’t say they love their job. If you can, consider yourself incredibly lucky. That might be all you need.