How to Make Work More Meaningful in 2023

I love this time of year, but it may not be for the reasons you think.

Sure, I am all for cozying up to the fire on those crisp, wintry evenings, listening to holiday favorites, and spending extra time with family. And yet, I also love this time of year because it gives me an opportunity to reflect on what I learned over the last 365 days and motivates me to craft my goals for the next. Through these experiences of reflection and creation, I give meaning to the past, present, and future.

In coaching executive leaders, I have also found that these same experiences of reflecting and crafting provide a sense of meaning to their personal and professional lives as well. And it doesn’t stop there. When leaders invite their teams to also think about what they learned over the course of the year and share what they would like to accomplish in the next, engagement increases because they have been given the space and opportunity to connect their learning, remember their purpose, and invest in their future.

So, we know that meaning is important to ourselves and our teams, but how do we go about bringing meaning into our daily lives and workplace settings? The quick answer is to set goals. But do not be fooled. There is a lot more to meaningful goal setting than writing a few words down on paper.

Here are my tips for making work more meaningful in 2023 using the power of goal setting.

Choose the One Thing That Will Add the Greatest Meaning

The first step to effective goal-setting is to identify what one thing will add the greatest meaning to your life. Of course, you may have lots of ideas as to what that one thing is and ask, “How will I choose?” This is common and understandable, and yet the best way to set yourself up for success is to start small and focus on one thing at a time. This laser focus will help you achieve your goal much faster. Remember that every journey starts with the first breadcrumb, meaning that once you complete one goal, you will be able to see more clearly what goal you need to make next to reach your destination. You will see that second breadcrumb soon enough. For now, focus on one thing – the thing that will bring the most meaning.

Craft Your Goal as Though You Have Already Achieved It

The next step is to craft your goal as though you have already achieved it. Our subconscious mind does not know what is real and what isn’t. So, when we frame what we want to accomplish as though it already is or has happened, our subconscious believes this and creates behaviors that are in alignment with this “reality,” making it more likely for us to achieve what we set out to.

Be as clear, simple, specific, and actionable as possible when writing out your goal. For example, if your one thing is to build better relationships with your team in 2023, what actions will you take to do that? You might check in with each member for the first 5 minutes of your day. So, your goal may be:

I spend 30  minutes of my day checking in for 5 minutes with each team member, increasing my relationship with my team members by 30%.

Also, make sure that your goal is realistic. Is it possible to spend the first 5 minutes of your day with each member of your team? If you have a team of 50 people, this will take a little over 4 hours. This may not be a realistic goal. However, there is nothing to say that you cannot break down your goal and say, “I spend 30 minutes of my day checking in for 5 minutes of each day with team members on a rotating schedule so that I am talking with each team member weekly one-on-one. This helps me increase my relationship with my team members by 30%.” Designing your goal in this way means that all 50 members will be able to check in with you every week while you are spending half an hour each day engaged in these 5-minute check-ins. You are starting small and yet making a huge impact.

Plan for Inevitable Barriers

Stanford University Psychologist and TED Talk speaker, Kelly McGonigal has said, “Your task is not to avoid failures, but plan for them.” When it comes to goal setting, this is extremely important. Obstacles and barriers are inevitable on any journey, especially those meaningful ones, and your first reaction to change or challenge may be resistance. However, if you identify potential challenges ahead of time and have a plan for how you will overcome them, you are far more likely to move beyond these challenges and find success in achieving your goals.

So, go deep here and ask yourself what would happen if you didn’t meet your goal. Just as it takes courage to imagine possibilities and success, there is courage in honestly and without judgment, acknowledging what has kept you from what you want and how things might look if you continue not to achieve your goals. The more clarity we have around what holds us back, the stronger we are in getting past it.

Share It Out with Others

Share your goal as well as the steps you are going to take to reach your goal and your plan for overcoming those inevitable barriers with others. You might tell a friend or colleague. This is also a great opportunity to invite your team to support you and, at the same time, be an example to them of the power of goal setting. These updates don’t have to be long. A five minute report and reflection on your progress will suffice. The purpose of sharing your goal and progress with others is to keep you accountable while also having a sounding board to talk through challenges. These same partners can also encourage you along the way and be there to celebrate your learning and success.

BONUS: Add even more meaning to the work you are doing by being an accountability partner for others as well.

When we are focused on the one thing that will bring greater meaning, are clear in what we are going after, plan for the challenges that are sure to come by creating solutions now, and invite others into our journey of process and achievement, we discover that what we are doing as a leader is meaningful. What a wonderful way to start the new year!

Looking to learn more about setting powerful goals and becoming a more effective leader and team? We offer goal setting workshops, strategies, and one-on-one or team coaching focused on goal setting. Contact us to learn more about our executive coaching opportunities and the Leadership Evolution Program at [email protected]. We will talk soon.