Why It’s Important To Find Meaning In Your Work

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Why It’s Important To Find Meaning In Your Work

Words by Mr David Waters

9 October 2019

“In order to feel meaningful, we need to sense our work provides relief from suffering or is giving pleasure to others”

In Man’s Search For Meaning, the Austrian writer Mr Viktor Frankl writes about surviving the Holocaust. Paraphrasing a famous Mr Friedrich Nietzsche quote, he concludes: “He who has found a why to live can bear almost any how.” In other words, if we have purpose and meaning in our lives, we can tolerate almost any difficulty.

Or, as Mr Frankl himself concluded, “There is nothing in the world… that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is meaning in one’s life.”

For Andrew, the meaning he had found through his profession was being eroded by the shady business practices of his new parent company. It was hardly surprising that working for a venture he didn’t believe in was causing him so much anguish.

Together, Andrew and I formed a plan of action. We agreed a timeline. He would do his best to uncover incidences of corruption and present his findings to the board in order to make root-and-branch change. If this do-or-die plan didn’t work, he would leave the company quickly in order to minimise the damage working there was doing to his conscience.

Until Christmas that year, as Andrew discovered further evidence of the company’s bad practices, he became increasingly agitated and angry in our sessions. Ultimately, the board didn’t take his evidence of fraud as seriously as he felt they should. As we’d agreed, he left the company early in the new year to take some time off to rethink his professional life.

When we met after his break, I asked Andrew if he would start another business. “Yes,” he said happily. “I’ve decided to start a consultancy that will help companies deliver on their ethical commitments so they don’t just pay lip-service to good practices but make sure all their stakeholders are treated well.” The crisis that had brought me and Andrew together over several months was transformed into an opportunity for him to find greater meaning by minimising others’ pain. Mr Frankl would surely have approved.

Illustration by Mr Iker Ayestaran