The Joy of Purpose … finding meaning in what you do

Life is filled with opportunities to make a difference and leave the world better, to influence others for good, to leave a legacy, to build and create and bless and serve.

To increase the joy and happiness that comes from living a meaningful, purposeful life, do more meaningful things with your life.

But this is not the only way to increase purpose and meaning. There is a direct correlation between job satisfaction and happiness for most people. But here’s the rub: Many people have very dissatisfying jobs. Are they then doomed to a life of unhappiness?

The good news is that no, they’re not!

Two Options for People Caught In Dissatisfying Careers

1. Change jobs. If you can land a job that offers greater satisfaction, the problem may be solved.

But keep in mind that the satisfaction does not need to come from the social significance of the work you do. It may come from the people you work with or the intellectually stimulating and challenging nature of the job.

2. Change how you think about what you do. The power of interpretation has been well-documented. You can change the way to interpret life by changing how you think about life, and your feelings will follow.

Those who view life through the skeptic’s glasses will feel very differently about life and others and relationships and circumstances than viewing the same events and people and conditions through rosier shades.

Either way, work becomes more joyful.

Incidentally, the principle here is equally applicable to non-paid work. Stay-at-home moms can equally benefit from reading on …

Happy People Develop a Life of Meaning by Finding Meaning in the Things They Already Do

Too many people see emptiness in their work. They find nothing redeeming about what they do. They feel life is without purpose because, for 40 – 60 hours a week, they spend their time performing tasks that lack significant relevance or importance, as they perceive things.

Here’s the secret: You can focus your energy and attention on what you don’t like about work. Or you can focus on who you serve, who’s lives are made better by what you do, and how what you do benefits them.

To make someone feel good, to lift a spirit, to cause a smile on the heart or face of another is no small matter. That can become the goal and purpose in the work you do – even if your work has little perceived meaning or significance of itself.

Your work, then, becomes the vehicle through which you have opportunities to lift spirits and cause smiles. And that is a meaningful thing to spend your time doing.

The What vs. Why of What You Do

What you do may be relatively irrelevant. But why you do it and who it benefits – even if it’s only the wage you earn that allows your family to live with a roof overhead and food in the fridge – can dramatically change the way you feel about what you do.

A teacher, for example, can focus on the bureaucratic swamp that is public education today or on the good that she does in the classroom everyday to teach and lift and build.

A plumber, likewise, can focus on the stink, or on the invaluable service he provides making lives better in very measurable ways.

A mom can focus on the dirty diapers of motherhood or on the solemn moments of loving service to a dependent child of God entrusted to her for the length of their time in mortality together.

Either way, the same work is being done. But focusing on the who over the what of what you do, changes the emotional effect. What you do has relevance and importance and meaning because of why you do it and who you do it for.

The Meaning of Interdependency

Besides, all our lives and everything we do are intertwined and interconnected. Life moves forward because all the interconnected parts move forward together.

The poet is dependent upon the pencil maker for her poetry. The pencil maker depends on the lumberjack for his pencil. The lumberjack depends on the axe maker for the tools of his trade. And so on ad infinitum.

Recognizing that interdependency can increase the sense of meaning and purpose as you realize how important your work really is as one part of a larger and ever-evolving system of interconnected operations that makes modern life possible, adds a meaningful degree of joy to the tasks of life.

Such a recognition, however, has to be truly felt and believed, more than simply noticed or accepted to have the emotional pull on happiness.

Rule #2: Want to be happy? Discover the deeper meaning in what you already do everyday. Or, if needed, tweak what you do or how you do it so you can.

Grocery shopping ceases to be an annoying necessary evil and becomes an opportunity to meet others, say hello to a favorite cashier, provide nutrition to your family, extend life by feeding loved ones.

Waiting at a stoplight for an emergency vehicle to pass becomes a moment of purpose when you slip in a quick prayer for the emergency professionals and those they are rushing to help.


Life can be filled with happiness by filling it with meaningful acts of service. Or joy can come from learning to recognize the meaning and purpose in things we already do. Either will add to a happy life. Both will add happiness at an even deeper level.

There is yet another way to add joy and purpose to life: Return tomorrow to learn how to find life’s inherent meaning.