Reflection: What’s sparked your passion at work this year?
Take some time ahead of the holiday season to pause and reflect on what work's been like for you this year with this reflection activity put together by our MeaningSphere Guides. For more activities like this, subscribe to receive thoughtful insights and resources about meaningful work, and to be the first to know when we launch new services.
It’s that time of year again: ugly sweater days, office parties, gift shopping. As end of year events and get-togethers fill up your calendar, why not try carving out some time to reflect on how your year went at work? Our team of MeaningSphere Guides have put together a self-reflection activity to help you do just that. Cozy up with a cup of hot cocoa (or whatever your preferred beverage is for this season) and give yourself permission to explore what has – or hasn’t – been working this year at work.
This activity will help you find the "why" behind what motivates you and understand how others benefit from your contributions. A bit of introspection can help you clarify more precisely what energizes you at work and can nudge you to find more tasks and projects that will fulfill you next year.
End of year reflection: Four steps to help you reflect on your year at work
When you embark on this exercise, set aside some designated time for yourself and create a quiet space. Whether you're outside in nature or cuddled up on the sofa, make sure you minimize distractions. We recommend doing the reflection with good old pen and paper to best organize, and make sense of, your thoughts.
You can do this reflection by yourself. Or, as December is often a month where we come together and have time for conversations, you might also want to share your thoughts and insights with someone else. Sharing and comparing with others can help you uncover different perspectives and ideas you hadn’t thought of yourself.
Step 1: What’s the work that I do?
Start by describing your work. Try to move beyond your job title, which can be a reductive way of expressing what you bring to the world. Instead, focus on describing the work you do in an active way and use verbs to specify what you set in motion. Also, write down the impact you try to have through your work. You can use the prompt below to get started.
I’m working on________in order to________because________.
Perhaps you’re an interior designer. Use the prompt above to help you explain what you do in a way that focuses on the parts of your work that motivate you the most.
I’m working on creating cozy spaces in order to help clients create their dream home because I believe a home is a safe space, where everyone should have the chance to be surrounded by the people and things they love.
Step 2: What makes my work worth doing?
You may find this question difficult to answer. It can be hard to know how to start unpacking what makes your work worth doing. This step will help you explore the motivations that drive your engagement and satisfaction at work.
Let’s start by breaking the question down into digestible pieces. We’ve based this exploration on Self-Determination Theory, a framework that points to four basic psychological needs that influence our sense of motivation, well-being and empowerment at work: autonomy, competence, relatedness (basically how connected you feel at work), and beneficence (the contributions you make that impact others).
It’s worth noting that, although we all draw motivation from similar types of sources, what specifically drives and inspires you will be unique to you. To understand what it is that makes your work worth doing for you, you need to delve into various aspects of your professional life.
So, dive in. For each of the four aspects of meaningful work, we have prompts to help you gain a better understanding of what you think makes your work worth doing. Spend some time reflecting on how you experience this in your work. Write down what’s most important to you.
Competence (your sense of your power to do something)
Start thinking about the tasks and projects you did this year that gave you energy and where you felt you used your talents well. What skills and strengths do you feel most confident about in your work and projects?
What challenges do I find most stimulating and engaging in my work?
Creating new interiors from a blank canvas.
Bringing clients’ ambitions and ideas to life in a way that’s also practical and affordable.
Relatedness (your sense of caring relationships in your team/organization)
Bring to mind the times you enjoyed doing teamwork and you felt fully accepted to contribute to a shared project or task. How do your professional relationships contribute to your overall job satisfaction? What is it that you like about working together?
What makes teamwork and working together joyful?
Being able to rely on and trust my coworkers to check our work and make sure we’re always delivering the best quality possible. Sharing ideas with my coworkers and finding better solutions together.
Autonomy (the power of making your own choices and decisions)
Recall a time when having autonomy over your work led to a particularly successful outcome. What are the work situations or tasks where you feel you can make your own choices, have freedom to make decisions and have a sense of personal empowerment?
What kind of tasks or projects motivate me to get involved and take action?
When I see people struggling to envision what their new room, for example, a kitchen, would look like or when they’re having trouble making a decision, I’m able to help people visualize their ideas.
Beneficence (your sense of making a positive impact for other people)
Recall a specific instance where you felt a strong sense of fulfillment from the positive outcomes of your work for others. Can you identify aspects of your projects that contribute to the greater good or to a positive impact for the people who benefit from your work?
When I fulfill the needs of others, what makes me feel I’m successful?
When I see my designs lighting up people’s eyes. When my clients say: we didn’t expect it could look as good as this.
Step 3: Does your work motivate you?
Take a look at your answers and see what you like most about your work. How much time during your working days do you spend doing these parts of your work?
Are there any tasks, projects or working relationships that are part of your job that drag you down instead of lifting you up?
No job is perfect and you’ll probably always have to do some things you enjoy less. But do you find you have a balance between what stood out as most important based on your responses and other tasks that come with your job?
What’s stood out as most important to you based on your responses?
Have you realized there’s something missing? If so, what?
Does the work you currently do make you feel fulfilled? Why? How?
The more all four aspects are balanced and aligned with where you spend your time, the more you will feel your work matters, to you and to others.
Step 4: What action do you want to take?
Now have a look at what you wrote down as your work statement in Step 1 and your reflections in Step 2. If doing this reflection exercise has shown you that what you actually do and how that makes you feel at work is in balance – congratulations! Relax and take some time to enjoy the holiday season, ready to start refreshed in the New Year.
If the exercise uncovered something that you feel is missing for you at work, or you discovered things you would like to do for personal growth, take time to give this some thought. Then, you may find it helpful to talk about your thoughts, and reflect with others and hear their perspectives.
Ready to go deeper in your exploration of what’s working for you at work? Then try the Meaningful Work Survey.
Based on academic research by leading experts on meaningful work, the Meaningful Work Survey experience starts with 31 questions designed to open up different perspectives on what makes work meaningful to you. Where is energy gained or drained? What opportunities exist to give your work more meaning? You’ll receive a comprehensive report that includes short videos showing real examples of how you can put your results to work.
(Please note that, right now, the Meaningful Work Survey is only available in the US.)
More ways to explore what works for you at work:
Subscribe to receive thoughtful insights and resources about meaningful work.
Join our virtual Book Club – on December 21, we’ll be discussing Priya Parker's The Art of Gathering, about making gatherings more intentional, memorable, and meaningful. All welcome – no need to have read the book.
Take part in a Meaning Circle – a unique small-group experience for thoughtful exchange of different perspectives on what might make your work life more meaningful.
Martela, Frank and Riekki, Tapani J. J., (2018). “Autonomy, Competence, Relatedness, and Beneficence: A Multicultural Comparison of the Four Pathways to Meaningful Work", Frontiers in Psychology
Frankl, Victor, (1946). Man’s Search for Meaning