Career ≠ Meaning

No job, and no career, no matter how fantastic, gives your life meaning. You might give meaning to your life while performing your job or career, but life, and its meaning, it about what you learn. It’s about who you are, or who you can become. Life is about who you love, and who loves you. It’s about how you leave the world, as much as what you do while you’re in it.

It’s easy to understand how we get wrapped up in your job. After all, money is pretty important to most of us, and jobs are how we get it. It’s even easy to get wrapped up in your career, because your career is what helps you get the next job, when you need it. And intellectually, most of us know that we should be “working to live,” not “living to work.” We know there’s more to life than our jobs.

But it’s so easy to forget that in the day-to-day, isn’t it?

Unless you’ve got a destination. For example, it took me and my family sitting down and deciding what we wanted our lives to mean. Who we were, and where we spent our precious resource of time. Then we figured out what we would need to support than, in terms of money, and then we created a plan to get that much money, but to not chase a bigger paycheck afterwards.

It meant that I could keep an eye out for an organization that not only provided me the money I needed, but also, in a perfect world, helped me realize some of the meaning I wanted from life. I’ve been incredibly lucky to find that: an organization that wants to help lift people up by teaching them valuable skills. But I couldn’t have done that if I hadn’t had that in mind as a destination.

That’s why it’s so important to set aside what society tells you “success” means, and create your own definition. To define, in objective terms, who you are. To make sure that your success and your personal values are interconnected and compatible. And then to start taking small steps, on a weekly basis, to realize those goals and bring the meaning that you want to your life.

For me, it required a system, or I knew I’d just put it our of mind and wander off the road. Not some complex system with day planners and such, no. Just a simple means of writing down what I and my family wanted, and a way of holding myself accountable to that. I screwed it up a lot along the way, but after 16 years I feel I’ve finally got it down to a repeatable science, and I’ve written a book about it (it’s free, you can get it below).

The key for me was deciding what I wanted and then working backwards from that. I didn’t try to create a 20-year plan (who can do that, anyway?), I just tried to accomplish one next step, and once that was out of the way, I figured out the next one. All this let me line up a career, and the jobs within it, to support what I wanted my life to mean.

They say that when you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. And it’s true. Knowing that what I do for a living, every single day, is helping to give my life the meaning I want for it… it’s amazing. And I do believe anyone can do it, if you just take the time to actively do it. It won’t happen by just sitting back and hoping for it.

About the Author

Don Jones is a well-known technology speaker, author, and practitioner, with dozens of books, years of magazine articles, and hundreds of lectures under his belt. He's also a business leader, and authors books on business, learning, and instructional design at Leanpub.com/u/donjones. "Be the Master," the third edition of Don's book on achieving success and helping others, has been changing the lives of people all over the world.