The mindful path to meaning
Detaching from thoughts can lighten your mind about work but also strengthen its meaning
It is easy to lose a sense of purpose and meaning in the continuously changing world of work. Even a long summer break can unsettle the felt meaningfulness of your path and cause post-vacation blues. At such times, the tendency to worry and feel distressed makes it difficult to see what, if anything, one should do about the situation.
Mindfulness has shown its ability to attenuate negative thoughts and emotions– but could it play a role in enhancing meaning in your work and career too?
Detach from your biased thoughts
A simple definition of mindfulness refers to non-judgmental attention to thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Research shows that mindfulness practices can be of benefit also when it comes to career-related concerns. By simply observing what is going on in your mind, you disrupt its habitual patterns, even if only momentarily. This loosens the grip of negatively biased thoughts and broadens your view of what is really happening.
Increase identity awareness
A common misconception about mindfulness is that it is focused only on detachment. However, even in its original Eastern context mindfulness was never an end in itself, but rather a way to gain insight and wisdom. In fact, mindfulness can support not only detachment from adverse thoughts but also attachment of new meanings.
For example, research shows that mindfulness is associated with increased career identity awareness. In other words, practicing mindfulness can help you clarify your strengths, values and their alignment with your current path.
Reassess the meaning
In addition to identity awareness, a recent theory indicates that mindfulness can enhance your capability to make positive reappraisals of your life. This does not mean recasting aversive experiences into positive but being able to appreciate them as a vehicle for personal growth and meaning. So, mindfulness might help you reinterpret your current situation to see the meaningfulness already there or readjust the course.
Create space for stillness
While a regular mindfulness practice has its benefits, even a little dose of mindfulness can support addressing an issue. When you find yourself troubled by your work or future, take a moment and just observe the thoughts and emotions that come up. Creating space for stillness can transcend the biased mind and open a wider, more meaningful perspective on your life.
Kirsi LaPointe, D.Sc. works as a senior advisor at Aalto University's Career Design Lab. She develops and facilitates programs to support Aalto students and alumni in pursuing authentic, meaningful and sustainable careers.
Kirsi's expertise and research focus on career transitions, identity and meaningful work. She is inspired by creative and critical approaches to change including narrative, design, mindfulness and arts-based methods.