One of the questions that has forever plagued me, but more recently in the last week has been whether the work we do is meaningful and impactful. I ask myself this question frequently as a means to temperature check myself and ensure that my work and my personal life are aligned with my values, ethics and morals. While idealistic and impossible to achieve, this practice ensures that I stay true to myself, even in the work that I do. Being idealistic isn’t a problem until it becomes an end-goal obsession. But using ideals to guide a path to your personal definition of success can be very beneficial in the long term.
Recently, I was told that I come across as confident and exuberant, that it seemed like I have always “had my shit together”. How I wish that were true. On the outside, I can seem calm, collective and confident, while on the inside, my head is swirling with thoughts of insecurity, anxiety and despair. It does not mean that I am bad at what I do, but it does mean that I am humans, like everyone else. Writers, it seems, are very prone to self-loathing, and it can be challenging to navigate these thoughts while keeping on top of deadlines.
This week my head decided there was only one question that needed answering: is the work I do meaningful? Are the blogs that I write for companies adding value to the world? Is the work that I do impactful? Does it truly solve a problem or are we just participating in this non-stop content machine, churning out work that will be gone from the world in five years? Most people avoid asking themselves these types of questions and rightly so. They can be unnerving and completely derailing. I’ve written extensively on desirewrites.com about my struggles with identity and defining myself as a writer while working through all the childhood conditioning surrounding the belief system that art doesn’t pay. So being a full time artist also meant that I had to face some incredibly deep set fears, and navigate this creative world, largely on my own, since I don’t have anyone in my support system who has been through something similar.
But, is the work we do meaningful?
For the entire week, my brain asked this question, and as the week passed I slowly grew more despondent. I could not answer the question, because at my core, I did not really believe that the work I have been doing has been meaningful. But, it then lead me to question my definition of meaningful. How do I measure something to be meaningful? How does one define this? Do I have to contribute to the world of environmentally friendly, anti-racism, pro and anti everything to qualify? Do I have to quit my life and become an ascetic to do meaningful work? Do I have to care for the sick, house the homeless and feed the hungry? What are the standards for meaningful? What are my standards?
Then it hit me – it’s a matter of perspective. So, the most mundane, meaningless aspect of your job that you absolutely hate doing, could actually be meaningful for the whole process. When we’re searching for meaning, in life and in work, tilt your perspective. I asked myself a simple question: the blogs that I wrote last week for that client, was that meaningful work? At the beginning of the week, I thought ‘no’ but by the end, it’s a resounding yes. You see, the work we do contributes to a wider network of work. I write a blog, a company publishes it, a random person who I never met has read it, and is left with something to think about and now has the potential to become a customer. Something I personally take for granted is leaving golden nuggets and self-reflective questions in the work that I create, as it leaves a reader with something for them to think about. Perhaps they won’t think about it today, but it’s in their subconscious, and the subconscious loves reflection.
So yes, the work that I create is meaningful, even when it doesn’t seem that way.
The same goes for you. If you are struggling to find meaning in your day, take a step back and think about the equation without your skill set. Would the world keep on turning or is your contribution to the world, as simple or as complex as it might seem, meaningful enough to cause disruption with its absence? I can say with some certainty, that it is meaningful. Those who we think are invisible keep the world ticking over, and that’s a lesson we learned with the pandemic. Those people who stack the shelves at your local supermarket, their job is important and meaningful. They also deserve a hell of a lot more respect than they are given, because they risked their lives working on the front lines when the pandemic was intending to wipe out half of the world. If you are working in an “invisible” job, thank you, because we all contribute to the world in our own ways, and every day that we show up and get the job done adds a little more meaning into the world.
Go out and live your beautiful, meaningful lives, and extinguish any despair you may have in your head and your heart.