What difference does your work really make?

What difference does your work really make?

What’s the bigger picture of your day-to-day work?

There are so many things we’re all having to think about right now in this time of lockdown and isolation, and many people are looking for greater meaning in the work they do.

Depending on the type of work you do, you may have days where you feel like you’re just going through the motions. You may wonder if you’re really making much of a difference in the world – and if you don’t feel motivated, you may not be very productive .

Many people have been thrown into remote working right now, and when you’re doing the same thing in the same space at home every day, and your world seems to be getting smaller, the need to find meaning can be particularly acute.

How can we do our current work better?

The Butterfly Effect theory tells us that we are all connected – that everything we do has an effect on something else.

In a separate article I’ve looked at how to find the ‘sweet spot’ in your work – looking at what you’re good at, what you love, what the world needs and what you can be paid for.

I’m taking that further here and looking at the difference your work makes in the world each day – and how, by knowing that, you can feel more motivated to do it and/or to do it in a different way.

What do you really deliver in your work?

By this I don’t mean the physical thing or service that you create/produce/deliver. Instead, I mean the end result for your boss or your clients/customers/patients, etc.

For example…

If you’re a physiotherapist, you’re not simply dealing with the physical problems that patients have and going through a series of physical exercises with them. Instead you’re helping them become pain-free, gain confidence and (for example) enjoy all the activities they have planned for their forthcoming holiday.

If you’re an architect, you’re not simply drafting plans for your clients, researching materials and liaising with builders. Instead you’re creating a dream environment that gives your client a home or building that supports all their future plans.

If you’re a software developer, you’re not simply writing code and building programmes for specific purposes. Instead you’re enabling your end customer to do amazing things as a result; they may, for example, more easily be able to create something that saves lives as a result of your creativity.

If you’re a waiter/waitress in a restaurant, you’re not simply taking food orders and bringing meals and drinks to a table. Instead you’re making sure that (for example) a family reunion or a birthday celebration goes brilliantly and gives your customers lasting memories – for life.

Whether you’re machining a piece of metal or teaching watercolour painting, the difference you make is much bigger than the work you actually physically do.

The effect over time can be huge

The practical work you do can have an exponential effect over time. Two examples very personal to me are these:

My partner is a musician in an up-and-coming band. The work that their manager and record label do enables the band to play to more people in bigger venues. My partner and his co-musicians often have someone from the audience approach them after a gig and tell them how the music has helped that person get through a really difficult time. That may then also make a huge difference to the person’s family… and so on. The reward for the band in hearing those words from a fan is immense – and it stems from the ordinary day-to-day work done by their manager and record label.

My own previous work involved advising families how to access nursing care funding, I wasn’t simply providing advice and helping people through funding assessments. Instead I was helping them safeguard their life savings and their homes by making sure the state healthcare system paid for their care. The knock-on effect down through the generations of those families is potentially infinite.

What difference does your own work really make?

Finding greater meaning in your work means you will more easily do your best work.

And by understanding more about the significance of your work and the difference it makes, you can look for better ways to do it – to make an even greater difference. That could mean finding practical improvements in the way you physically work in your current job, or it could lead you to decide to work for someone new, or go freelance or even start your own business.

What meaning do you see in your own work when you look deeper?

And if for any reason you don’t like the impact your work is having in the world, what will you do instead?

I’d love to hear what your own work is and how you feel it makes a difference in the world. Don’t be shy about this – the difference you make can be huge, and your story can inspire others. Feel free to add a comment here.


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