Editor’s note: Triangle entrepreneur and thought leader Jes Averhart, CEO of Jes & Co and host of the “Reinvention Road Trip,” is a regular WRAL TechWire contributor who explores topics pertaining to reinvention, especially prompted by the onset of the global pandemic. Her columns appear weekly. 

Note to readers: WRAL TechWire would like to hear from you about views expressed by our contributors. Please send email to: info@wraltechwire.com.


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – As you know, burnout prevention and recovery is my thing. Over the past few months, I’ve conducted burnout recovery workshops with several clients—Cisco, Amazon, Kroger, Palo Alto, just to name a few—and I have to say, my understanding of burnout grows each time. What causes it. What cures it. What we can do to prevent it from roaring back to life.

Just recently, as I was conducting a workshop with a global-facing organization, I hit upon something that really got my attention: the power of finding meaning.

Meaning restores our soul.

Meaning lights the fire in the belly.

Meaning is what helps us catch the energizing wave (my Living Beyond Burnout folks know what I’m referring to).

Jes Averhart image

What? Finding Meaning… at Work?

Not sure where to start? If you’re saying, “Jes, you’re crazy. I work my job so I can afford to do things that bring meaning to my life. Finding meaning at work is pie-in-the-sky nonsense.” That’s okay. It just means you’ve got a whole new world to explore, and that can be a good thing.

Take a minute to pause and let your mind wander around that topic for just a moment.

  • When’s the last time you felt the power of meaning in your work life?
  • What does that even look like?
  • Have you ever felt it?

Still can’t find it? I’ll help you get started.

The Starting Point

You see, meaning shows up when we experience one of the following things:

  • Connection
  • Purpose
  • Service

It may be easier for you to pinpoint the things that provide meaning to your life if you dig into your personal life first. Here’s how you can take a shortcut to uncovering this magic. Do this simple exercise:

  • Open the photos app on your phone
  • Select 5-10 pictures that have brought you joy over the past 3-6 months (see my example… although I chose like 100 haha)
  • Now ask yourself: WHY do these photos bring me joy?

Here’s where the magic begins.

The Magic Begins

Now ask yourself:

  • What is it about these photos that brought you joy? Was it the people involved? Or maybe it was who you shared these photos with?
  • What are the subjects of your photos? People? Objects of beauty? Projects that spark inspiration?
  • What’s significant about each of them? Was it a proud moment? Were you feeling inspired to want to try something new? Or maybe you captured an emotional connection?

Take a minute to write down what you’ve discovered. Bingo! This is the meaning. This is what I’m talking about. Those precious moments are evidence of the meaning in your life.

The Next Level

Now that you’ve done this for your personal life, try leaning into your work life. You may or may not have work-related photos on your phone, but you do have mental images to leverage: your memories.

Ask yourself:

  • What are my most positive 3-5 work-related memories?
  • What are those memories centered around?
  • What’s significant about those experiences?

Meaning and Burnout Recovery

I realized the connection between finding meaning and burnout recovery when I was conducting that workshop. I was leading the group through this find-pictures-on-your-phone exercise when I realized that really, finding meaning is at the root of burnout recovery.

Afterall, we tap into energy when we feel like we’ve made a difference.

We feel satisfied after a day of hard work if we feel like what we did that day mattered.

Take some time to think about that.

Here’s hoping you uncover what brings meaning… and that you lean into it.

Get more of that in your life—and your work, too. This is the good stuff.