With both Gallup and the Greater Good Science Center research on the aspects on well-being in mind, there are plenty of practical ways to find a sense of meaning outside the office. Here are a few.
1. Cultivate Meaningful Relationships
Social well-being is something Americans struggle with. While we have hundreds, if not thousands, of friends on social media, we lack genuine, deep connections with one another.
By many, many measures Americans are more isolated than they have been in the past.
And he isn’t referring to romantic relationships. This spans the gamut. Friendships, families and partnerships are all areas we need to actively cultivate a more meaningful connection.
The lack of connection could be because millennials are focusing too much on their careers and not enough on friends and family.
Social well-being is not about a number of friends you have. It’s about the quality of friends you have.
So the next time you’re socializing, think twice about immediately responding when your phone buzzes. I promise, the notification will be there later.
2. Volunteer for a Cause You Like
Volunteering is a great way to add fulfillment to your life, and it certainly develops human capacities like compassion and empathy. It also allows you to develop new skills and try new things that have nothing to do with your professional life.
In the Greater Good Science Center’s Greater Good magazine they write that altruism is one such way to have a greater sense of purpose.
But sometimes it’s hard to find time to volunteer.
To combat your scheduling woes we propose “double dipping,” i.e. combining multiple aspects of well-being into one activity. So don’t just volunteer alone. Rally your friends and family to your local food pantry or run a 5K race that raises money for your favorite charity.
3. Join a Professional Group
There is a clear distinction between your job and your work. Jobs are temporary. Even if you’re lucky enough to have the same one for 40 years, it’s still temporary. But your work is a greater cause.
So if you aren’t happy with your current job, but you do enjoy the sense of work or the field that you’re in, professional groups can be fulfilling on multiple levels.
There’s also the hugely important social aspect of professional organizations.
4. Start a New Hobby or Nurture a Passion Project
Depending on which hobby or project you choose, you can support several aspects of well-being simultaneously. Hobbies like rock climbing or CrossFit support physical and social well-being for sure, but we highly recommends reading and writing.
Social isolation can lead to a lack of meaning, but these solitary activities are big exceptions. They actually increase the human capacities mentioned above.
For example, reading can foster insight and empathy by introducing you to someone you would have never met otherwise. And writing, especially about your own experiences and life, can help you find a sense of meaning.
Try turning your life into a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. That can allow you to project your story out into the future.
5. Reframe Your Mindset About Your Job
You may put a little too much emphasis on the work category of your overall well-being. Whether you love or hate your job, it’s easy to get caught up in it and have the issues of the day or month or year follow you home.
To redistribute some of the importance that you place on your job into other areas like physical or social well-being, you can reframe how you view it.
The important thing is not what your external circumstances are, but how you feel about those circumstances, noting that it’s entirely possible to be in prison and have a strong sense of purpose. As long as you have enough to eat and a roof over your head, there’s hope.
Similar to writing about your life story, this mindset can help bring a bigger perspective to your life.
Why do we have jobs? We have jobs so that we can make money and pay the rent and eat. Unhitch… your self-esteem from your job.
In other words, view your job as a paycheck that allows you to enjoy the other aspects of your life, not as a main source of fulfillment itself.
6. Practice Mindfulness
Research shows that mindfulness has several benefits. Sometimes those benefits are exaggerated. But we do know that when done properly, mindfulness can help increase your attention, improve your mental health and positively affect your relationships, among several other things.
Even monks who take a vow of silence for decades have a connection to a monastery. That path to enlightenment is oftentimes connected to a larger religious organization.
Some people think that isolating yourself on top of a mountain is a good way to reach enlightenment. But that could actually have negative effects (beyond the dangers of, you know, slipping and falling to certain death).
As you incorporate some (or none) of these suggestions, it’s important to keep in mind that this list is in no way definitive. These are merely examples of activities to increase your chances of overall well-being.
So get creative and come up with activities of your own that fit your schedule.
There’s not a certain amount of boxes to check on your road to purpose. People can take many different paths. The important thing is you’re really listening to your life… listening and responding to it.