it’s no secret that I love the work of Brené Brown. My earlier article on daring greatly was inspired by her book.
A while ago I made a note to remind me that I also needed to write about chapter 14 of her book The Gifts of Imperfection which talks about the importance of meaningful work.
As I listened to that chapter again (I now listen to most of my books through Audible) it was immediately clear why.
The importance of meaningful work
This chapter is all about the importance of meaningful work and how important this is to our overall wellbeing.
It’s this core belief that lies at the heart of 40+Entrepreneur.
i want to enable more women to find that meaningful work and to let you know that it’s NEVER TOO LATE to find it or embrace it.
Here is what Brené Brown says based on the research that she did.
‘We all have gifts and talents. When we cultivate those gifts and share them with the world we create a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. As it turns out it’s not merely benign or too bad if we don’t use the gifts that we’ve been giving we pay for it with our emotional and physical wellbeing. When we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighed down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear and even grief.’.
This describes exactly how I felt when I wasn’t using my gifts and instead tried to work for others. I had no choice but to honor these calls from inside and start designing my own life.
Mind you, it took time to find my ‘gifts’ and I still feel I haven’t found all of them.
Finding your gifts and purpose
You too may be wondering why you feel unfulfilled and it may just be that you’re not fully cultivating your gifts.
“Using our gifts and talents to create meaningful work takes a tremendous amount of commitment, because in many cases the meaningful work is not what pays the bills. Some folks have managed to align everything. They use their gifts to feed their souls and families. However, most people piece it together’. Brené Brown
I feel like I’m one of the lucky ones that is able to do what I feel is meaningful work full time. That didn’t happen overnight though.
As Brené says, in the beginning it requires a lot of commitment, trial and error and I did this meaningful work next to my other (bill paying) jobs. I build my business on the side on a shoestring (find out how to start a business a shoestring here).
Slowly but surely though, my meaningful work got more popular and I was able to turn it into my full time business. This doesn’t happen overnight, but is the result of consistent, relevant action.
“Like our gifts and talents, meaning is unique to each one of us.”
It will be your job to find them (my article on how to find your passion will help with this).
How to get over self doubt
The process of finding your gifts is certainly not easy. It took me years to pinpoint mine and I’m still discovering new ones. It doesn’t help that the little voices in your head will tell you that you’re not special enough to do this. I’ve spoken before how I used to feel that I averagely good at a lot of things but that I din’t feel I was very good at one particular thing.
Brené likes to refer to this self talk as your ‘gremlins’.
“Maybe everyone has special gifts, except for me – maybe that’s why I haven’t found them yet”.
“yes I do this well, but… that’s not really a gift; it’s not big enough or important enough to be a real talent”
So how you overcome that self doubt?
Brené recommmends you to own the messages and find out what makes you afraid? Write them down!
It will give you the opportunity to acknowledge that you’re afraid to own your desires and can give you the power to pursue them anyway.
I personally did a lot of writing and research before I stumbled on my passions. Now I’m just overflowing with ideas all the time and don’t feel there are enough hours in the day to create everything that I want to share with you.
How to define who you are and what you do?
Have you ever been asked the question: ‘What do you do’ and you didn’t know how to answer it?
That may be because you’re not just doing one thing. For example I’m a mother, stylist, blogger, online business strategist, online marketer, story teller, speaker and podcaster.
Very few of us are defined by just one thing, so it can well be that your meaningful work is part of what you do.
One person who wrote about this is Marci Alboher. She wrote the book One person / Multiple Careers. This book will inspire you on how to create a role that reflects multiple sides of your passions.
It’s perfectly ok to have multiple sides to what you do, just as it’s ok to have multiple ways to do meaningful work. Even if just a part of your daily activities feels meaningful to you, that alone can give you lots of fulfillment.
That’s why tapping into your genius and gifts is just so important. And even if you’re not able to do this full-time, start by taking small steps. Start by spending part of your week on this meaningful work.
“Overcoming self doubt is all about believing we’re enough and letting go of what the wold says we’re supposed to be and suppose to call ourselves”. Brené Brown
Criteria for meaningful work
In Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (another one of my favorite books), he describes 3 criteria for meaningful work:
- Autonomy and
- A relationship between effort and reward.
He feels that these can often be found in creative work.
Brené also recommends the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coello. He offers “a powerful way of seeing the connections between our gifts, our spirituality and our work and how they work together to create meaning of our lives”.
Getting clear on your meaningful work
Using some of the above can all help you to find your meaningful work. It took me quite a while to find mine. i’ve described most of my process in my article on how to find your passion and I recommend you to follow the same process.
Write everything down that inspires you, that you’d love to do, that you’re good at. Don’t hold back and dream big. You can always moderate it later.
Once you have found a few things that would bring more meaning to your life, or you have a found a passion that you would love to pursue as a business, start taking small steps towards that goal.
“Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
You may first like to define what ‘meaningful’ work means to you.
For example, for Brené that means that her work needs to be inspiring, contemplative and creative.
For me it means that my work needs to be creative, inspiring, and action provoking.
You can formulate your own key words about what work you want to commit to and spend your time on.
How important is doing meaningful work to you? Have you found your mission yet?