Millenials Part Three – Discovering Meaning in Life and Work

Junior Military Officers come to my firm, Cameron-Brooks, to seek help in finding their next careers after transitioning from active service. They often tell me their goal is to find meaningful and worthwhile work. This search criterion has increased with the coming of age of the Millennial Generation (born after 1980) in the workplace. The frequency of this request has caused me to explore the ideas around “meaningful work.”

In his book, Prisoners of Our Thoughts, Alex Pattakos writes about the application of Viktor Frankl’s principles for discovering meaning in our daily life and work.  The foreword is written by Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and one of the most frequently-read books on the Cameron-Brooks recommended reading list. Covey writes in the introduction about how deeply Frankl’s work and book, Man’s Search for Meaning impacted his life. Covey also writes about something that is a fundamental part of Frankl’s philosophy of finding meaning in our life and work. There is a moment in time that is uniquely human. It is that space that lies between stimulus and response. “In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.”  Although I may have no control over the stimuli that enter my life (my recent canceled business flight for example),  I do have total control over my response and my attitude. Sometimes finding meaning in our work requires a shift in attitude. Like the young shepherd in Paul Coelho’s book, The Alchemist, sometimes we find the destination of our journey close to home – perhaps, even within ourselves. My challenge to you is to look at your current work and find the meaning in what you do. Remind those with whom you work of the meaning they bring to you, themselves and others.

When you look for a new career opportunity, place more emphasis on the intrinsic meaning of the work than extrinsic considerations like starting salary and location. Make a list of the factors that bring meaning to you and allow you to live your life within the values that define you. Use the list as a guide in the journey towards your new career, and your destination will be meaningful and worthwhile work.

Steve Sosland