One of my life aspirations is to spend time each day doing meaningful work. I laugh at myself when I read that, because I don’t think it’s that hard, or it shouldn’t be. Even on days where I feel like I have no control over my schedule, I do. Our use of our time is the one thing most of us can control.
The problem isn’t that I can’t choose to use a portion of my day for meaningful work. The problem is that meaningful work is hard.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not lazy. My problem isn’t busyness (usually). I’m pretty good at recognizing busy work vs work of value. I do a lot that’s valuable. But you know, valuable work isn’t necessarily the same as meaningful work.
Meaningful work is something you’re uniquely designed, gifted, or trained to do. It recognizes, well, YOU. The very act of doing the work makes you feel seen. Even if no one sees you and what you’ve done, when it’s meaningful work, it doesn’t matter. Your soul feels seen. When you feel seen, you start to see others. That’s meaningful work.
Meaningful work stretches you. It takes you to the edge of your ability and stretches you into the space beyond what you know, onto a blank canvas that is sometimes terrifying and always a mystery. Sometimes meaningful work looks like failure, when it doesn’t turn out the way you expected it to. But it’s part of your growth trajectory, and you need that, too. As much as we seek comfort, we grow through failure and discomfort.
The only way to build the habit of meaningful work is to show up every day and do the reps. Carve out an hour or two – heck, carve out twenty minutes – and do the simplest possible version of work you find meaningful.
Your first attempt might be bad. And your second. Do the reps anyway. It’s okay. You can add more weight over time. Maybe your first fifty sets aren’t great. You feel weak and out of your element. But you show up, put in the time, learn from what worked and what didn’t, and show up again the next day.
Write a post. Write code. Build software. Build a team. Have a conversation that goes deep. Put words to the vision you see but are too scared to voice. Take the job. Ditch the job. Ask hard questions. Be vulnerable. See what happens.
Go do meaningful work. Because you can. Because you have something to offer the world. Because you have something to offer yourself. Your soul needs you to show up.
You show up by doing hard work that matters.