How to Find Meaning Outside of Your Job
You are hardworking and dedicated, but sometimes it feels like you don’t get much from your life outside of your job. It can be tough to find your true self when it feels like you’re always working.
Finding meaning outside of work can be tricky: Sometimes our work identities feel like the only sure things in our lives, and it’s just easier to wrap ourselves in that feeling. But generally, that does more harm than good.
Listen to this week’s episode of the rich & Regular podcast where we discuss careers and identity, and keep reading for some insight into getting to know yourself better outside of work.
You are not your job title.
While being passionate about what you do can be a good thing, remember that it’s not all that you are. Thinking about ourselves as “only” our job titles can add to feelings of isolation and loneliness, which have become increasingly common during the pandemic.
Find your purpose, not your passion.
Often, the word purpose is used interchangeably with passion, but the two are not the same. Passion is about emotions—how something we do makes us feel and how we derive motivation from those feelings.
Purpose, on the other hand, is outwardly directed and usually about serving others. Finding your purpose isn’t exactly easy and usually requires a lot of trial and error. Remember to be patient with yourself as you work to figure out what makes you come alive away from the office.
Take some time with your journal and reflect on these ideas to help you narrow your focus:
Topics you gravitate toward: Look at your bookshelves, movie and TV selections, and search for topics that you return to again and again. For example, if you watch every new environmental documentary, you may want to look into ways that your specific skill set can help save the planet.
What other people say about you: Ask other people in your life who know you well, like your partner or friends, what topics you talk about most, and use those as clues to help you dial in on both your purpose and passion.
Think about things that have hurt you in the past: A constructive, if painful, way to develop your purpose is to think about wrongs done to you in the past and work to correct them now. If, for example, you did not have the same access to education or resources that your peers did, you may find your purpose by mentoring or helping students find those opportunities.
Happiness isn’t everything.
It can be tempting to think that we’ll find who we are if we can just find what makes us happy, but that can be counterintuitive. While happy moments are great, and we should pause to take them in fully when they happen, you may notice that they’re fleeting and don’t lead to lasting fulfillment.
Dr. James Hollis, a Jungian psychoanalyst, instead wants us to ask ourselves, Will this choice enlarge me or diminish me? Looking at something that enlarges your life can help you find meaning for your current and future self and help you define your purpose in life.
Be aware that enlarging your life may not lead you to immediate happiness. You may find that as you reflect, you’ll have to make some tough decisions about whether to stay in a relationship or job that has run its course or re-examine some of the things you thought were part of your defining values.
As you consider this idea of enlargement, ask yourself:
What are my priorities? Knowing who or what you need to focus on will help you understand what other distractions to say no to.
What is within my control? Your decisions color your life, so make sure that you have clarity around what is and is not within your control.
What are my personal standards? Develop a list of criteria that fits your life, and work to live up to them every day. Practicing small daily habits now can help you tackle the more significant problems down the road.
By doing this internal work, you can help yourself find fulfillment and answer some of the tough questions before they start to drag you down. Know that who you are and what you do are two different things, and that by exploring your life outside of the office, you are working toward a better future for yourself.
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