The Five Secrets to Finding Work that Matters

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career coaching, find work that matters, find work you love, enjoy work, escape from corporate hell

Do what matters

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Bored? Frustrated? Stuck in a rut? Work feel meaningless?

You probably spend at least 40% of your waking hours at work.

What would it be like if you really enjoyed that time, if it felt like you were doing something important and meaningful, something that mattered?

I spent a decade working as a forensic accountant.  I hate details and I’m not a big fan of numbers.

I didn’t see the point of what I was supposed to be doing – it felt pointless. I struggled to find any joy in my working day.

Suffice to say that 40% of my life was not ideal.

I put work in a painful box, and kept it away from the rest of my happy life.  I felt drained of my life force every day.

I felt trapped by my job – after all, I was objectively successful, relatively well paid and had the “security” of working for a big global company.  What right did I have to ask for more?

It was only when I talked to a good friend about her career that I started to think differently. She had a clear vision for her work – to improve society using smart, analytical business ideas.  She was completely passionate about her career, dripping with enthusiasm.

My friend did work that she believed made a difference in the world around her – it impacted the lives of others, and the community she lived in.  Whilst I could hardly get out of bed every day, she couldn’t wait to get to work.

I realised that it was possible to enjoy making a living. To find work that felt meaningful.  To make a difference in the world.

This spark inspired me to start my own journey to doing work that matters.  It has been a long road and not always smooth sailing.

Now I help others who wish to find work that matters and I love my work every day.

In talking with hundreds of people who have felt stuck in a career rut and made radical changes in their work lives, I’ve found some five striking reasons to find work that matters:

1 IdentityYou are what you do.”

Work is a key component of our identity. Our work helps to define our place in the world.

When you meet someone new, one of the first questions you’ll inevitably be asked is “what do you do for a living?”

Answering that question helps to tell your personal story, the way that others perceive you.

Work helps you to express your individuality and express yourself.

If you love your work, it aligns with your values and who you are a person.

2. Quality of Life. “Work takes up 40% or (much) more of your life”

Given this, work has a huge impact on your happiness and quality of life.

Work can be hugely energizing and bring us a great deal of challenge and joy.  It can also suck the life force from us and leave us devoid of the energy to do more than lift the remote control.

Finding work that works for you can change your whole life.

3. Personal Development. “Work pushes you to grow”

The work we do is one of the main ways that we interact with the world around us.

You can take on new challenges, learn new ideas or skills and develop your ability to interact with others.

You can work with different people who can teach, inspire and challenge you to be the best you can.

The right work stretches you, dares you to be better.

Work allows us you to develop as a person and find out more about the world that we live in.

4. Purpose.What were you put on earth to do?”

The work that we do can help us to answer some of those bigger questions in life.

I often hear someone saying that they want to  “do something meaningful”, “something that makes a difference to people” or “makes a difference in the world”.

When we find work that we love, it is sometimes called finding our vocation, or “doing what we were put on earth for”.

Finding work we love helps us to make sense of our existence and find meaning in life.

5. Making a Living.If you have to work, why not do something that matters?”

Like it or not, most of us need to work to make a living.

We need to make money in order to create the life we’d like to live.  Receiving financial reward for what we do enables this to happen.

As we need to work, why not try to do something that we enjoy and that motivates us?

I’ve met too many people who put life on hold for that well paying job they hate, yet the idea of sticking that out for another 20 years is killing them.

These powerful reasons tell me that doing work that matters is vital to living life to the full.  I’ve learned my lesson here, now its..

Over to you

Please share your thoughts on work:

  • Why do you go to work?
  • How important is to do work that matters for you?
  • How have you found work that you enjoy?
  • What is stopping you from finding work that you love?

Answers on a postcard – or better still, leave a comment.

If you’d like to explore finding work that matters, take a look at my career coaching services. If you’d like to find out more drop me an email to and we can find a time to chat.

Photo Credit: Tinyfroglet (Flickr Creative Commons)

Related posts:

  1. How to Think Big for your Life and Career – 5 lessons from Rudyard Kipling
  2. How to Make a Living doing what you Love


  1. Phil
    April 23, 2010 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Do you do work that matters? Can work be meaningful and enjoyable? Are you ready to make a change? Please leave a comment and share with the LOL world.

  2. April 23, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    We can and should absolutely do something meaningful with our work. There is some fantastic advice on the blog about finding satisfaction through our careers.

  3. April 23, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Work definitely needs to be meaningful and enjoyable. Money is a great motivator in the moment (“Whoa! Look at my paycheck!”), but it doesn’t last. If you don’t care about what you’re doing, if it doesn’t stir something inside you, then you’ll burn out. It’s inevitable.

    On the other hand, I have to share a warning about work mindset. True, a lot of “normal” jobs are boring, mundane drudgery – but sometimes our thought processes can make things worse. If I’m determined to leave a job, for example, I’ll start finding problems everywhere I look. But if I actively look for bright spots in the midst of a boring work day, I’ll probably find more than I expect.
    .-= Jeffrey Tang´s last blog ..How to Save the Earth (Without Fear) =-.

  4. April 23, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Yes, we’re all entitled to meaningful work that matters, that satisfies us, that we love. Even those who don’t need to work for a living seek work that fulfills them. And a double yes that we can all find it and make it a reality.

    I’ve seen so many people stay at a passion-less job that didn’t satisfy them out of so-called pragmatism. It’s sad because they don’t see what joy they’re depriving themselves of and that a passionate way of (professional and personal) life is possible and is a reality for many people.

    My one test to find out if I love my work is to ask this question: Would I do this even if I didn’t get paid? The answer has been a resounding yes for 8+ years.

  5. April 23, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    Hi Phil – Your post reminds me that the root word of “vocation” is “vocare” – to be called. I had to take a lot of risks and leave behind a lot of security to follow those calls in my life, but it was well worth it. Even though it took time. Time and patience. Actually, it’s still taking time and patience as I move into my next chapter. I think that’s maybe the most important, and hardest thing, for people to remember when they’re in a less than ideal work situation: Give yourself time. Slow down. Don’t rush. When you start putting one foot in front of the other, taking small steps, it will all unfold as it needs to. And you can trust that.

    Thanks, Phil!
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..The Art of Friendship =-.

  6. April 24, 2010 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    Hi Phil,
    you have touched a very important topic. I am very lucky working from home, doing what I love and spending lots of time with my family. It is such a blessing to be able to live like this!
    Like you I believe that work needs to bring meaning to life and my work definitely makes me feel like I am doing something right with my life. I also feel that you don’t need to stop once you find what you love. You can always explore different ways of pursuing your passion, you can try to make a difference some other way, you can just try something new and see if you like it or not. I feel that it is important even if you already love what you are doing because this novelty will help you escape burnout and loss of inspiration.
    .-= Anastasiya´s last blog ..How to Build Relationships That Will Help You Grow in Life =-.

  7. April 24, 2010 at 4:30 am | Permalink

    I guess I’ll be the first to actually answer your questions. I am a full time blogger and author of two books. I am passionate about writing and inspiring people. I also freelance write on the side as well. So there is a lot of typing I do, but it is aligned with my talents and purpose in life to inspiring and empowering others while on the same journey myself in my own personal development. :)

  8. April 24, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    All of those are strong points, however I think #2, #4, and $5 are the strongest. What’s the point of having all the money in the world if you have a shoddy quality of life? If you can’t find joy in what you do everyday? As you say, we have to work… so then the very least we can do is make a difference in the world.
    .-= Travis´s last blog ..Like the New & Improved Layout of PWG? =-.

  9. April 25, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Phil, I learned this lesson in a harsh way… to be able to work and earn one’s own money is a joy and a privilege that most people take for granted.

    The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth. So the challenge is to be passionate about what you do a matter what it is and to be happy in your work. :-)
    .-= Tracy Todd´s last blog ..Turning-point… “Why Walk When You Can Soar”. =-.

  10. April 26, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    I agree, Phil, starting off my career in accountancy, what was I thinking? It’s definitely better to be doing something that makes your heart sing – or rediscover the passion that brought you into your current job, which may mean you move up, sideways or out.
    And I love Tracy’s comment:
    \\\’The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.\\\’
    .-= Liz´s last blog ..Getting to Your Goals: Top 5 Goals Setting Tips =-.

  11. April 26, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Nice article Phil. It’s interesting to know that you were a forensic accountant before this. I’ve had some part time jobs before. They all felt like work. Although blogging does require work, it doesn’t “feel like work” to me at all, since I’m just writing. I feel like what I do is somewhat matters because it helps to show other people that successful people through similar problems that they have too. Currently I enjoy what I’m doing. I was just answering your questions from below. :)

  12. April 26, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    At social gatherings, when people ask what I do, I often tell them I’m a monkey trainer or a snake charmer…just to see their reaction…then I tell them I’m a comedian…after which they have trouble believing me for some strange reason!

    Great sentiments Phil. I’m most happy when I’m either on stage, doing the radio, and just totally in the flow of what I’m doing.
    .-= Amit Sodha – The Power Of Choice´s last blog ..Video – Are You Still Doing Things To Make People ‘Like’ You? =-.

  13. April 27, 2010 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    A really thoughtful post and very personal Phil. Although short, this was loaded with wisdom, thanks for sharing this.
    .-= Marc Winitz´s last blog ..Embrace Criticism By Asking For Feedback =-.

  14. Phil
    April 27, 2010 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    @Better Way – Thanks for sharing that resource and appreciate you stopping by. Keep sharing the good news about work that matters

    @Jeffrey – I agree with your warning. The last couple of years I spent in accounting I started to shift my mindset. I moved toward the types of work I enjoyed (managing others, being a mentor and coach to my team, developing client relationships). I started to enjoy my work a whole lot more and to be more successful. I changed my mindset to one of looking for enjoyment and found it. Great observation – we do create our reality at work and every day is important.

    @Ogo – a really great compliment, thank you. I think it’s important to understand how much work affects our life. Simply surviving can be painful and a constant strain. Everyone has their great work inside them and once it is found, life gets really exciting. Thanks for stopping by and come again soon.

    @Belinda – that is a great question. I wonder how many people would say “yes”, I would do this job even if I didn’t get paid? That is when we start to move toward finding work we truly love that takes life to the next level. Work that feels more important, that needs to be done is exciting!

    @Patty – finding our calling can take a lifetime to achieve. if we take it step by step and look for clues along the path, we’ll enjoy the journey and notice a whole lot more. Finding work that is challenging, enjoyable and stimulating is a great start on the journey.

    @Anastayisa – you are truly an experimenter and an inspiration. Often meaningful work is not “being a dentist” but “helping people to be more healthy”. Under that remit you could work directly with people, write about this topic, give workshops, blog, make videos and online content, train others with your skills, work with government to encourage oral hygiene. There is always something new to keep things fresh!

    @Baker – thanks for sharing. Your work clearly inspires you and aligns with your values. I am sure that you make the most of every day and live with passion. Keep it up and keep it interesting!

    @Travis – “making a difference in the world” is the single most common thing I hear when I talk to my clients and the rest of the world about work. It is a way to make a mark on the world around us and other people. It creates a lasting legacy beyond our own actions. When work does this it tends to feel important and meaningful – and we get satisfaction from it. Finding that work is possible for everyone.

    @Tracy – thanks for your wisdom. The only difference between a rut and the grave is death – serious food for thought. I think everyone deserves to find work that is meaningful and enjoyable, and to make the most of it every day. I choose to make today a great one.

    @Hulbert – thanks for your thoughts. When you find something that doesn’t feel like work, you know you’re onto something good! Your writing definitely does inspire others to live a better life and I enjoy your posts. Keep it up and keep enjoying!

    @Marc – thanks for stopping by and for the kudos. I know that you are very passionate about your work and that it makes an impact on the lives of others. Great to hear from you.

  15. April 27, 2010 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Hi Phil,
    I am blessed to be doing \"work\" that I like to call my \"Marvelous Obsession.\" It is an awakening stat when you say we spend 40% of our waking lives at work. It is also helpful for people who may be stuck in a 9-5 to \"pay the bills\" to change their perspective of their work. If you can take on the perspective that your work is supporting you to move toward your ultimate goals, you can not only appreciate your work but move toward your dream job as well.
    .-= rob white´s last blog ..The lesson of New Orleans =-.

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  1. By Is Work Working for You? on June 10, 2010 at 11:48 am

    [...] If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, look for support to help get you out.  Remember, every great career journey starts with a single step.  Take a look at this article on Finding Work that Matters to get started. [...]

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