To lead a meaningful life, do we have to have meaningful jobs? Considering the average person spends 90,000 hours of their lifetime at work, it makes sense that finding meaningful work can help us feel more fulfilled in every aspect of our lives.
Of course, “meaning” is subjective; but regardless of what you consider to be meaningful, it’s important to keep it in mind when engaging in any kind of career planning.
Colorado State University psychology professor Michael Steger studies the psychology of meaning in life. In one paper, he and fellow researchers assert, “the best work experiences add value to people’s lives and are an important part of their personal and communitarian flourishing. …At its best, work also contributes to the health and equity of organizations, communities, and societies.”
But meaning isn’t something at which we simply arrive, we have to keep pursuing it. Part of the essence of meaning is purpose, and purpose drives us forward. In a TEDxCSU talk, Steger explains this.
“Purpose is the need to do. We must move to find and seek and obtain what we need in life. …I think of purpose as an anchor we throw out into the future. This aspiration we have, this big dream, we throw it into the future, and it keeps the future alive for us.”
Following our aspirations with the intention of finding meaningful work is just as important in shaping a fulfilling life as actually doing the work itself. In other words, the value of career preparation—the journey of getting to that fulfilling job—should not be dismissed.
Going back to school to earn a degree or credential is one way we can discover purpose. Do you agree? Watch Steger’s entire TEDxCSU talk in the video below, then tell us what you think. Can furthering your education give you a stronger sense of meaning in your life?