By Leo Babauta
For anyone trying to do meaningful work, feeling connected to that meaning can be a big challenge.
It turns out, even if you can stay focused on your meaningful work for most of the day… it’s easy to lose connection to why it’s meaningful. To why you care about doing this in the first place. We get stuck in the drudgery of doing endless meaningless tasks, stuck in task mode, rather than feeling that the tasks are meaningful ways to spend our day.
So how do we deal with this challenge? Not surprisingly, the answer is practice. Let’s take a look.
Have a Deeper Why
If you haven’t done this step yet, don’t skip it. We need to find a deeper reason to do our work, other than, “To get paid,” or “Because it’s on my list or in my inbox,” or “Because other people are waiting for me to do it.” If we don’t have a deeper reason, work becomes meaningless drudgery. We can put up with it for years, but it won’t feel like a meaningful way to spend our lives. It won’t feel inspired.
So why do you care about doing what you do?
What makes this meaningful to you?
There are lots of possible answers … here are a few:
- Because you’re helping people you care about
- To make a change in the world that feels powerful
- To help people who are struggling or in pain
- To preserve something you care about
- To protect or serve your loved ones
- It’s an act of love for yourself or others
- In my experience, the most meaningful reasons to do anything are to serve others, out of love. But sometimes, we have to start by loving ourselves—that’s incredibly meaningful as well.
So get clear on your Why. Feel connected to it.
Set Rituals to Connect with Meaning
It turns out, just knowing why something is meaningful isn’t enough—we tend to forget it as soon as we get into Doing mode.
And so having points during your day when you connect to your meaning is a good idea. Create some rituals that will remind you to practice feeling connected.
Some simple examples:
- A short 2-5 minute meditation in the morning or evening, where you visualize the people you care about, and practice connecting to their hearts
- A devotional practice on your yoga mat, or in front of an altar, where you think about the struggles of the people you’re helping, and devote your work to them
- A photo, Buddha statue, vase of flowers, candle—some object that will remind you to pause and practice feeling connected to your Why
- A short moment of pause, where you set intentions before you start writing or answering messages (for example)—intentions of serving people you care about
- What rituals would you like to create to connect to your meaning?
Practice Connecting to Meaning
Rituals are structure in our lives to help us remember to feel connected to meaning … but they won’t really do anything if we just go through the motions. We have to practice really feeling the meaning.
So how do we do that? For me, it’s about feeling it in my heart. I practice feeling the love and devotion for the people I care about (all of you!), picturing any difficulties, struggle, pain or fear that you might have, and wishing you all happiness. Basically, a version of lovingkindness meditation, aimed specifically at the people I’m trying to serve.
I practice standing as Love, in my being. I practice feeling compassion in my heart. I practice feeling devotion to those I care deeply about, in my core. And then I see what flows from that—writing an article like this, recording a video, sending an email or message.
I practice trying to reconnect to that feeling as I’m writing or doing the task. I’ll forget, and lose connection, over and over again. That’s okay; it’s not about being perfect. It’s about coming back to meaning, over and over.
Because it makes every single thing I do so much more meaningful. Because it infuses my life with meaning. This is an inspired life! I wish you nothing less.
Leo Babauta is a regular guy, a father of six kids, a husband, a writer from Guam (now living in San Francisco). He eats vegan food, writes, runs, and reads. He is the founder of Zen Habits which is about finding simplicity and mindfulness in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness.
Editor: Dana Gornall
This article was originally published on Zen Habits and re-published with author’s permission.