When we think of having a sense of purpose and connection at work, our minds typically turn to careers that clearly make a difference in society—teacher, nurse, surgeon, therapist. But any job can prompt these meaningful bonds.
Feeling connected to your job is critical, because it forms the foundation of your health and well-being, says Alanna Fincke, meQ head of learning and director of content. As meQ research shows, people who strengthen their sense of purpose are more engaged at work, manage stress effectively, and have a better work-life balance. Plus, they have a lower risk of anxiety, depression, and burnout.
Perhaps the idea of purpose—that greater sense of connection—seems overwhelming or confusing to you. But as Fincke explains, purpose at its core simply involves identifying your “why,” or why you do what you do.
To help you understand your why, meQ has identified three levels of connection you can have to your job. In level one, you’re there because of the pay and benefits. In level two, you also like the work, your colleagues, and the challenges that arise. And in level three, you feel like you contribute to something larger than yourself. While the third level is the most powerful, all three have tremendous value.
To get started on finding your why, Fincke suggests asking yourself three questions (see below). If one or more of your answers resonate with you, jot them down and refer to them daily or weekly. Reminders are helpful, because we can easily lose sight of these connections when we get too busy, feel distant from the people we’re helping, or rarely hear about our company mission, Fincke says. Reminders also boost your motivation, morale, and confidence on more challenging days.
“Remember, like everything else with our health and well-being, connecting to your why is a practice,” Fincke says. After initially reflecting on these questions, consider revisiting them quarterly to see if your answers have changed.
1. How does my work support me and my loved ones?
Think about the ways your job supports your financial, emotional, and physical well-being. How does it serve you, your family, and your life? For example, maybe your high-quality benefits give you access to specialized medical care. Maybe thanks to your flexible hours, you can pick up your kids from school or devote time to a fulfilling hobby. Perhaps your job pays for your children’s education, or the generous vacation time lets you visit your parents who live halfway across the world.
2. What do I like about my work or the people I work with?
Naturally, you may not love every aspect of your job. But certain qualities of it or projects might be especially interesting, rewarding, or enjoyable. You may relish collaborating with co-workers, answering customers’ questions, or being able to work autonomously.
If you’re not sure, make a list of your day-to-day duties, and then circle the ones you like. Or as you perform different tasks at work, pause for a few moments to reflect on what you enjoy about them—no matter how trivial it might seem. As Fincke notes, our purpose can consist of small, medium, and large whys. They all count.
3. How do I make a difference?
Understanding how your work contributes to the lives of others can give you the fuel to manage difficult or demanding days. So ask yourself: How does your job help customers, the community, or perhaps even the world? Maybe you’re creating life-saving medical equipment, providing comfortable and safe accommodations for travelers, working to ensure the food supply, or helping families build their savings.
Drawing a blank? Think about how your role drives your company’s mission. Or picture your target customer and the ways you might make their life easier, happier, healthier, or less stressful.
As Fincke notes, you spend half of your waking hours at work. Connecting to and regularly reminding yourself of your purpose helps that time feel more meaningful and enjoyable—and is a wellspring of resilience.