Latimer: Resolve to do meaningful work in 2013

Mental Health columnist Paul Latimer says the more meaning our work has to us, the better it is for our mind.

As the year draws to a close, many of us look back and think of how we’d like the next 12 months to go. It’s the season for New Year’s resolutions.

Since most adults spend the bulk of their time at work, it is a common place to start when it comes to improving our future.

In order to feel content and fulfilled in our lives, it helps a lot if we find our work to be both enjoyable and meaningful.

A recent book by Martin Seligman, called Authentic Happiness, differentiates between momentary and authentic happiness and gives some insights into how to live life to achieve happiness by being true to ourselves.

In the area of work, the book describes three kinds of situations: work as job; work as career; and work as calling.

When your work is a job, you do it simply for the money you get from it. If you weren’t being paid, you wouldn’t be doing it. If your work is a career, you are concerned primarily with advancing. Your motivation comes from the potential to move forward.

When work is a calling, it is something you do for the fulfillment you gain from it.

Money and advancement are not primary factors for you and even if these were not present, you would continue to do the work.

Obviously, work that falls into the category of calling tends to be the most meaningful and produces the most true contentment.

It may not be possible for all of us to find work that can truly be labeled a calling, but this book identifies a few tips for moving closer to that goal.

• Be content.

If you’re constantly concerned about making more money, your work will continue to be a job to you. Of course everyone needs enough money to live and support their family, but beyond that, studies show more money in itself does not bring increased happiness.

Instead of constantly trying to get a bigger slice of the pie, it helps to learn to be content.

This frees your mind and energy to focus on more meaningful things.

• Find a cause that intersects with your strengths.

Take time to identify and develop your strengths. What are you good at? What comes easily to you and what do you enjoy? Once you are aware of your unique strengths use them to work toward a cause that is meaningful to you.

It helps if your cause is greater than yourself.

• Exercise your strengths.

Once you know firmly where your strengths lie, keep working to develop them. Try to use your strengths every day and you will gain gratification.

• Think in terms of helping people.

Generally, a calling involves a sense of contribution.

Try to find work where you can use your strengths to help people whether that means helping individuals in some way or improving the world somehow with your work.

If you focus on these sorts of questions as you think about your current work or consider a new occupation, it will help you toward work that is more meaningful to you and thus a more authentically happy place to be spending the majority of your waking hours.

Paul Latimer is a psychiatrist and president of Okanagan Clinical Trials.



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