In my capacity with 4word’s ministry to Christian professionals, I hear often from men and women who long for more “meaningful” work. They want to feel excited and purposeful when they head to the office on Monday mornings. And who wouldn’t? A sense of purpose is a powerful motivator, and it’s something I think God built a hunger for in our hearts. But in looking for purpose, people pay too much attention to a job’s “big picture” objectives, and not enough to the process of getting the job done.
This sentiment is reflected in one particular question I’ve heard variations of over and over: “How am I supposed to find purpose in my work when my company just exists to make money?”
Worthless or Worthwhile?
It’s true that some types of work appear more purposeful than others. Doctors and nurses work to save lives, police officers protect the community, teachers educate and inspire. It’s tempting to romanticize such consequential professions, especially if you have trouble seeing the greater value in your own company’s mission.
But in truth, a “meaningful mission” doesn’t necessarily lead to a purposeful or motivating career. If it did, medical professionals, police officers, and teachers wouldn’t rank so consistently on lists of professions with the highest rates of burnout and depression.
In contrast, consider the story of Vivian, a hotel maid who worked with such joy and inspiration that she caught the attention and admiration of the owner of the hotel chain. Hotelier Chip Conley described her remarkable approach to work in his 2010 Ted Talk, Measuring What Makes Life Worthwhile:1