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When employees are asked what matters most to them, having a sense of purpose ranks high on the list. In fact, research has even suggested that some people place a greater value on purpose than they do on getting a bigger paycheck. The truth is, everyone wants to find meaning, but many people don’t know where to look. 

The reason comes down to the misconception that purpose is this huge, elusive thing. In reality, discovering purpose is rarely an earth-shattering, light bulb moment — or something you find all at once. But little by little, through taking small actions — at Thrive, we call them Microsteps — you can begin to uncover your purpose. “Purpose can be found when we’re moving toward something we care about that is bigger than we are,” says Rebecca Fraser-Thill, M.A., a career coach and visiting instructor of psychology at Bates College. “It could be a near- or long-term goal you’re working towards, along with the intrinsic or extrinsic motivation to get there.” 

Finding the meaning in what you do doesn’t just increase your motivation to get out of bed and head to work — purpose plays a key role in your overall well-being. Besides being linked to improved physical health — like better sleep, reduced risk of dementia, and even a longer lifespan — feeling like there is an important reason behind what you do can keep stress and anxiety levels in check. 

In the workplace, deriving a sense of meaning from work has added perks. Purpose makes you more productive, results in better overall job performance, and helps you get along better with co-workers. And contrary to popular belief, your career doesn’t have to be your “passion” in order to infuse you with meaning. Here are some ways to buoy your sense of purpose in any job. 

Illustration by Julia Yoon for Thrive Global.

Make a list of things you enjoy.
Start to observe all the things you truly enjoy doing and write them down. Aim for a long list, and then look for commonalities. If your favorite moments include, for example, time spent in a mentoring program you’re involved in, as well as introducing your niece to your favorite sport, then maybe you derive meaning from teaching people new things. This could be an indicator that nurturing less experienced employees at work could give you a sense of purpose. Once you identify the things that fuel you or that you’d never want to give up, you can look for ways to apply them in the workplace. 

Bring your whole self to work.
Sometimes people feel like they won’t be able to find meaning in their jobs if their “real” passion is something they do outside of work. But there may be ways to integrate that part of yourself into the workplace. For instance, if there’s a cause you’re deeply involved in — like environmental issues — look for ways to raise awareness or facilitate change within your organization. Knowing you’re helping to open your co-workers’ eyes — especially about an issue close to your heart — could give you just the dose of purpose you need. 

Connect to the bigger picture.
People get into a trap of thinking meaningful work has to be lofty (or involve saving lives), but that’s not true. People find meaning building homes, selling computers, picking up garbage — as long as they are connected to why it matters. Sometimes the key to tapping into purpose is simply to look beyond your daily tasks and connect to the big picture. 

Think about funding your purpose instead of finding it.
Remember that your job or career exists within the larger framework of your life. And for some people, their priority isn’t to find purpose at work — but to earn a living so they can find meaning in other parts of their life. For instance, maybe you’re passionate about teaching yoga to underserved populations — and your steady paycheck allows you to do that pro-bono. Or maybe your purpose is to share your art with the world, and you’ve made painting your side gig while relying on a conventional job for your financial stability. This simple perspective shift can be a powerful way to link meaning with your work. 

The Life-Work integration section includes content meant to inspire and inform Thrive Global readers and is not a part of any other partnership across both brands.  


  • Jen Fisher

    𝗩𝗼𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 + 𝗵𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝘀𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 | 𝖡𝖾𝗌𝗍𝗌𝖾𝗅𝗅𝗂𝗇𝗀 𝖠𝗎𝗍𝗁𝗈𝗋 | 𝖳𝖤𝖣𝗑 𝖲𝗉𝖾𝖺𝗄𝖾𝗋 | 𝖧𝗈𝗌𝗍 #𝖶𝗈𝗋𝗄𝖶𝖾𝗅l | 𝖳𝗁𝗋𝗂𝗏𝖾 𝖤𝖽𝗂𝗍𝗈𝗋

    Jen Fisher is a leading voice on the intersection of work, well-being, and purpose. Her mission is to help leaders move from the legacy mindset that well-being is solely the responsibility of the individual to the forward-thinking idea of human sustainability, which supports the long-term, collective well-being of individuals, organizations, climate, and society.  

    She’s the co-author of the bestselling, award-winning book, Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines, the Human Sustainability Editor-at-Large for Thrive Global, and the host of the WorkWell podcast series.

    As the first chief well-being officer of a professional services organization, Jen built and led the creation and execution of a pioneering holistic and inclusive well-being strategy that has received recognition from leading business media brands and associations.

    Jen is a frequent writer on issues impacting the workplace today, including the importance of mental health and social connection to workforce resilience, happiness, and productivity. Her work has been featured in CNBC, CNN, Fast Company, Fortune, Inc, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Harvard Business Review, among others.

    She’s a sought-after speaker and has been featured at events including TEDx, World Happiness Summit, Out & Equal Workplace Summit, Acumen Global Gathering, WorkHuman, The Atlantic Pursuit of Happiness event, and more. She’s also lectured at top universities across the country, including Harvard, Wake Forest, Duke, and George Mason.

    Jen is passionate about sharing her breast cancer and burnout recovery journeys to help others. She’s also a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, self-care champion, exercise fanatic, sleep advocate, and book nerd! Jen lives in Miami with her husband, Albert, and dog, Fiona.

    You can find her on LinkedIn or on Twitter and Instagram @JenFish23. You can also receive her personal insights and reflections by subscribing to her newsletter, "Thoughts on Being Well" @jenfisher.substack.com.