Meaningful Work


What is meaningful work, and how can you begin planning for a life of significance in your career?

A fairy tale
An elderly man is walking by the river one day when he comes across three men hammering into the stones.  He asks the men, “What are you doing?”  The first replies, “I am breaking rocks.”  The second says, “I am feeding my family.” And the last man responds, “I am building a cathedral.”

This is a classic fable that illustrates meaningful work.  All three of the men in this story were performing the same task, but had incredibly different views of it.  The first man was just performing a task.  Maybe breaking rocks was his hobby.  The second man was using the work as a means to an end—he needed to work to provide for his family, and this job was available.  The last man had a sense of great purpose, knowing the rocks he broke would have an impact on the world around him.  This last man had found work that was meaningful.

More than a paycheck
Work that is meaningful for some may not be meaningful for others.  Your parents may have found meaningful work as, let’s say, a dentist.  That does not mean that you will find the same value in repairing teeth that they do. Take a moment to consider the level of job satisfaction you see around you every day.  Let’s start by observing the adults in your life. 

            • Are they satisfied with their work? 

            • Do they feel their work contributes to more than just a paycheck?

            • How does their attitude toward work affect their moods and behaviors at home?

Ask around
Start a conversation with adults around you. See if you can piece together how meaningful work impacts their general attitudes and feelings of fulfillment.

Questions to ask include:

            • Where do you work and do you like it?

            • Are you satisfied with your work?

            • What training or education did you need? Was it worth it?

            • If you could do it all again, would you do everything the same way?  Why or why not?

“Hard work always pays off, mere talk puts no bread on the table.” Proverbs 14:23

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