Meaningful Work

So it has taken me quite a while, but I have managed to work my way through more of Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. And as I keep moving through it, I continually wonder exactly how it is that she has such a direct line into my head. Chapter after chapter, it sounds like she’s either reading my mind now or has in the past – but I would imagine a lot of people would feel that way, reading through this book. It seems to cover a variety of situations and circumstances that are common in all of our lives, simply because of the way in which we live or lives. The one that really made me want to write something, though, is Guidepost #9: Cultivating Meaningful Work.

Those of us who have jobs go to work. But not all of it is meaningful. I like working at B&N, but I don’t really find any meaning in it; it’s just something I do to make money and get experience that I can use further down the road. What Dr. Brown calls meaningful work comprises  a number of different factors, on which she elaborates: gifts and talents (when and how we use the gifts that each of us have), spirituality (being able to share our gifts and talents with the world), making a living (the ability to use your talents to, well, make a living), commitment (how committed we are to our particular area of work), supposed-to’s and self doubt. Both of the last two are linked, because every time we think of something that we are supposed to do – “I’m supposed to hate my job,”, “I’m supposed to care about making money, not meaning” – we start to doubt ourselves, and drift away from being committed to doing any meaningful work.

She talks about other things, as well, but I really like this chapter, because while I have a job, the meaningful work I do is totally unrelated. To be honest, it’s here. I don’t have to write this blog; there are reasons why writing it could be problematic for finding another job. But I find meaning in it; it lets me explore what is going on in my head, talk about issues that have meaning to me, and do it in a public forum where anyone else who feels inclined can comment. It might end up helping other people who have had or are having similar experiences, too, and that’s always a plus. I used to think that, when I ‘grew up’, I would be a writer of fantasy novels; now it turns out that I did end up writing – just doing an entirely different kind. 

It turns out – according to Dr. Brown and another author, Marci Alboher, that more and more people these days are pursuing what they call slash careers – writer/surgeon, carpenter/playwright, lawyer/artist – in order to give themselves as much of a helping of meaningful work as they can. When people don’t feel fulfilled doing one thing, they’ll often turn to something else – maybe not as a full-time job, but as something that helps them to express themselves, and use gifts and talents they don’t get to use in the rest of their professional lives. I take some solace in that, because no matter what else I end up doing in my life, I can always write – whether on this blog, or on something more private, or something more whimsical – and find some sense of meaning in that.

In the meantime, I think more people should read The Gifts of Imperfection – you’ll probably be surprised at how much of what she talks about in it applies to you.

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