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Asking yourself this ONE question will change how you view your career

Since I was a young girl I’ve dreamt of changing the world. My parents encouraged me to reach for the stars and told me I was capable of accomplishing anything I put my mind to. Like many other millennials, I was raised to believe that my impact would be extraordinary. It wasn’t until I was about six months into my first post-college job that I realized how I had misconstrued the idea that having a job I loved would mean I would never work a day in my life.

First day in DC at The White House

I’ve since learned that work is often just that; work. I worry that too many of my peers and those younger than me who are new to the workforce are facing this same dilemma; if I don’t feel fulfilled every day in my job, am I on the wrong path?

The answer is that you’re actually asking the wrong question.

I was struck by the difference in word choice in Warton Professor Adam Grant’s focus on this topic. Instead of using the word fulfillment; making someone satisfied or happy because of fully developing their character or abilities, he focused on the word meaningful; or having a serious, important, or useful quality or purpose.

Election Night at NBC

“So many of us work in jobs that are not meaningful and motivating,” says Grant in a recent interview on CNBC. “Given that we spend about a quarter of our lives at work — maybe more — it’s kind of a travesty to say we’re going to spend most of our waking hours doing something that we don’t think matters that much. So it’s not a surprise that people are searching for meaning in work.”

Congressional Capitol Hill days

It has been so freeing to now ask myself “is my work meaningful?” instead of “is my job fulfilling?” because one is about helping others, and the other is selfish in nature. My work can be meaningful because it allows me to mentor my employees, to provide for myself and my family, contributes to the economy, and every once in a while, I have a really profound influence because of my job. Some days the tasks I perform aren’t very fulfilling, but the actual work product is meaningful. This is what I remember on tough days.

Christmas with the Governor of Florida 

If you feel frustrated by the constant barrage of outside influences telling you that in order to live a full life, you need to adore your career journey every minute of every day, stop and ask yourself what aspects of your job are meaningful. It’s also acceptable to know that while you may not find meaning in your work today, at least you’re on the right path.

How is your work meaningful?? I’d love to know, so comment below!

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