Meaningful Work – It Isn’t Just a Fantasy

Work is an integral part of our lives. But, how much of it is meaningful work?


In fact, most of the world’s population spends one-third of their adult life at work.[i]  With an average life expectancy of 79 years, that means we’ll spend just over 13 years at work.[ii]


Does that number fill you with excitement? Ambivalence? Gloom?  If your career aligns with your purpose, the prospect of spending 13 years pursuing your calling should excite you!


You may be familiar with the age-old adage, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”. While we tend to agree, work is still hard work. A more appropriate phrase might be:


“If you love what you do, you will feel fulfilled with your work each day.”


The workforce across the nation is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of purpose and meaning in one’s work. In fact, more than 9 out of 10 people are willing to earn less money to do more meaningful work[iii]and meta-analytic research shows that pay level is only marginally related to job satisfaction.[iv]


In a large study of over 2,000 employees, American workers said they would be willing to give up 23% of their entire lifetime earnings if they could have a job that was always meaningful.iii  


Initially, the notion of meaningful work may seem like a fantasy – something experienced only by the luckiest of individuals who accidentally fall into their dream roles and organizations at the right time. But the truth is, meaningful work isn’t so far-fetched after all.


How can you find work that is meaningful to you?


In order to pursue meaningful work in alignment with your passions, you need to have a deep understanding of your values and your purpose. Purpose is the “bigger picture”, the “why”, the meaning of our lives.


If you don’t know your purpose, consider these questions:

  • What is deeply important to you?
  • How do you think other people would respond if they were asked what is deeply important to you?
  • What are you most passionate about?
  • What types of activities are you engaged in when you lose track of time?
  • What drives you?
  • What type of positive impact do you want to make?


(Really, take a few more minutes to jot down your thoughts.)


Are you currently pursuing meaningful work?

How do your answers align with your current career?


Maybe they fit seamlessly or maybe your answers aren’t related to your career at all.  The more these answers align with your current career, the more likely it involves what you might consider meaningful work. And the research is clear: Individuals who find meaning in their work are more satisfied with their jobs.


If your current career isn’t aligned with your purpose, can you brainstorm different careers where you would find meaning? What would it take to get there?


Work will always be an integral part of our lives; remember, we spend 13 years there! So, take a moment to consider whether you’re pursuing a career that will continue to bring you joy and meaning over these years.


When our work aligns with our core purpose, we reap the benefits, emotionally, spiritually and financially. At PathwayU we believe there’s a better way to match people with occupations so that long, productive, fulfilling careers are no longer the exception but the rule.






[iv] Judge, T. A., Piccolo, R. F., Podsakoff, N. P., Shaw, J. C., & Rich, B. L. (2010). The relationship between pay and job satisfaction: A meta-analysis of the literature. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 77(2), 157-167.