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7 Steps to Find Meaning in Your Work Be honest about your goals, and you'll be happier on the path to success.

By Leigh Held Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


At a certain point, we become what we do. We want our jobs and lives to fit us as well as custom-tailored clothing. It seems more and more the secret to great success and happiness is finding purpose and working with meaning.

This is a step-by-step process. It requires knowing yourself and being honest about your goals. Here is a quick guide to creating a road map to success:

1. Identify issues. First, identify where you are in your career, how you got there and why you might lack gratification in your professional life.

Related: Richard Branson on Pursuing What Makes You Happy

"For some, they may be in the wrong field, wrong position, wrong company and wrong industry in the first place," explains Jan Spence, a business coach whose clients range from Pillsbury to Wal-Mart.

2. Establish the core values. This is a list of intrinsic values that are non-negotiable. These are the traits you want to be known and remembered for. They are the adjectives you want your friends and colleagues to use when describing you. Establishing values pulls your real self out.

"Once we identify values, we look at [employees'] personality, skills and interests to make sure that they align with their current occupation," Spence says.

This process allows an employee or entrepreneur to shift so they can shine in areas for which they are best suited.

3. Ask the big questions. These steps sound easy tied into neat little paragraphs -- however, this can be a difficult process that uncovers who you are. It forces you to ask the big, important questions that the tasks of day-to-day life normally sweep under the rug. Questions such as "What do I really want?" or "Should I change careers?" will come to the surface. The more grounded you are with the answers to the big important questions, the closer you are to reaching your true goals.

4. Be open to the journey. This is not a process that concludes in a week. Once you start down this path, the more open you are to the journey, the more opportunity you will see around you. Everything is not linear. Finding purpose and meaning is a complex process that can be full of many detours, as well as great success stories.

Related: Yes, You Can Be Happy While Pushing Yourself to Success

"Being open to the journey itself, rather than fixated on the destination, is wise," advises Cathy Benko, a vice chair and talent expert who is the corporate citizenship leader at Deloitte. "Beyond that, thinking more expansively about possibilities by looking up, sideways and diagonally."

5. Find a noble purpose. This is a call to action. It is the step that ingrains your core values in your day-to-day life. It gives you meaning and reason to do the jobs you do.

"Taking the time to identify those core values and develop a plan to bring that into everyday life begins to bring meaning and purpose to the career," Spence says.

6. Formulate an "end game." Beyond asking the big questions and finding a noble purpose, this is still about your professional career. Examine what you want your career to mean when it draws to a close.

"Many people are on the treadmill of career life and are not thinking about what their career will mean when they are done," Spence says. "Taking the time to identify those core values and develop a plan to bring that into everyday life begins to bring meaning and purpose to the career."

7. Locate resources. Aside from professional coaching, HR offices view this process in a positive light. It is always important to trust the right people and have your own idea of a goal.

"Some of the best employees a company can have are those who view their jobs as a calling and are motivated and driven to continue growing," says Mary Massad, division president of Insperity Recruiting Services.

Remember, nobody can believe in you as much as you can believe in yourself.

Related: 4 Tips for Being a Balanced Entrepreneur -- At Work and at Home

Leigh Held is a New York City-based freelancer. She is a regular contributor for Jim Cramer’s site www.mainstreet.com. Held has also written for Forbes.com and the sports section of the Boston Globe, where she got her start while at the Boston University College of Communication. 

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