Meaningful work: Creating and giving a greater meaning to your work.

If our work does not add up to a higher purpose we tend to get demotivated. It is the meaning and the greater good, that keeps us interested in what we do.

Meaning is completely independent from the physical task. Meanings are subjective while tasks are objective and physical. We cannot see meanings but we can see tasks. Meaning is inside our mind while tasks are outside in front of us. Meanings help us to see the physical world in different lenses. You see a man slaughtering a chicken and throwing it into the river. But he sees himself as a humble man giving a sacrifice to his creator who will reward him with many children and a farm. See the objective task and the subjective meaning. Another good example comes from NASA. Remember the famous line:

‘I’m not mopping the floor, I’m helping to send a man to the moon?’

The physical activity of mopping the floor is the same in all the places. And I’m quite sure that most janitors also work the same way.

There are times when vision and higher purpose is set by a leader. During those times people are highly motivated. But also there are times when leaders are nowhere to be found. Or there is a leader but without a vision or charisma. Working for them can be demotivating. But it does not always have to be that way.

Every person is capable of coming up with a meaning. Every person can create their own meaning and relate it to the task. Since both meaning and physical activities operate independently. We can add any meaning that can motivate us.


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Edmondson, A. (1999). Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams. Administrative Science Quarterly

Collins, R. (2014). Interaction ritual chains. Princeton university press.

Collins, R., & McConnell, M. (2015). Napoleon never slept: How great leaders leverage social energy.

Original: 08-08-21