This is a conversation with Rabbi Daniel Cohen.
Do you find your work meaningful?
Most people want their jobs to mean something, whether it’s making the world a safer place or helping others to have a better quality of life.
Yet sometimes it’s difficult to find meaningfulness in a job when you’re swamped with endless emails or meetings.
But Rabbi Daniel Cohen says that you don’t have to feel helpless and hopeless about what you do for a living, because the answer to making your job meaningful lies not within your job title – but within you.
“You were born with a purpose,” says Cohen, author of What Will They Say About You When You’re Gone? Creating a Life of Legacy. “You’re not an accident or a random combination of cells.”
No matter your faith tradition, he says that you can find your purpose in life by discovering your “Elijah moment.”
Elijah is the prophet who periodically shepherded the Jewish people according to God’s commands. Cohen says you can find the Elijah within you by seizing moments throughout your day when you can have more impact on those around you – even at work.
For example, when you walk into work, what do you do to make someone’s day? Do you buy them a cup of coffee? Do you smile and make eye contact when greeting a co-worker instead of being distracted and staring at your smartphone? Do you pitch in to help with a problem without being asked?
“We have to ask ourselves every day: What did I do today to uplift another soul?” Cohen says. “We are called upon with the talents we possess to rise to the occasion – every day.”
You will find more meaningfulness in your job, he explains, when you use the time at work more consciously.
For example, think about the people you encounter in a day, the emails you receive or the requests for advice. “Is it not possible that you could have done more, given more or listened more to people?” he says. “Of course there is! This isn’t meant to depress you, but to alert you to the numerous possibilities you possess to make an impact.”
Cohen says you can make your work become more meaningful by:
1. Being an agent of kindness.
When you walk into work, what can you do in the first moments to make someone’s life better? Offer a kind word or a compliment? “Perhaps the person was having a tough day and by acknowledging them, you’ve made an impact on their lives. One human being in the briefest of encounters can change a person’s life,” he says.
2. Making courageous choices.
We make big and small choices every day and some are easier than others. At the end of life, many people regret the things they didn’t do. “When we die, we won’t be judged against someone else’s life but against our own potential,” Cohen says. “Did we do the best we could with the hand we were dealt?” To get yourself in the habit of making better choices, wake up every morning and decide one good deed you will do that day and think more about the person in your life who motivates you to make better choices.
3. Living inspired.
Cohen says living inspired stems from an awareness that life can change in an instant. It means taking nothing for granted and not assuming you’re owed anything. Start a gratitude journal that lists new blessings every day, such a learning a new skill or working with a fun-loving colleague. Write a letter of thanks to your parents, a mentor or a friend who laid the foundation for your success. “This one day, the moment you’re now experiencing, is holy. Unlock it. Cherish it. Harness its full potential,” he says.
4. Celebrating small victories.
Maybe you’re not developing a life-saving vaccine or writing the next “Harry Potter.” But each day you make choices. To be generous and not greedy. To be honest and not deceitful. To be selfless and not self-serving. “Each morning, we’re blessed with the opportunity to choose life and get back on the road to success,” he says.
Cohen says the best way to lead a life of impact is to discover your Elijah moment. “It’s realizing that one person cannot change the world, but we can change the world of one person every day,” Cohen says. “It’s about living with a heightened awareness that each day offers a new opportunity to shine.”
About the author:
Whether a mentor, guide, cheerleader, or motivator, Rabbi Daniel Cohen possesses a unique blend of authenticity, wisdom, and spiritual insight for contemporary society. His personal experience as a Rabbi, sharing hundreds of life affirming moments from birth to death, cultivating thousands of years of Jewish wisdom and as a husband and father of six daughters, combined with his humor and humanity, provide him with a compelling narrative and navigational guide of your life. Rabbi Cohen has served in the rabbinate for over twenty years and currently serves as senior Rabbi at Congregation Agudath Sholom in Stamford, CT, the largest modern orthodox synagogue in New England. He is also co-host with Reverend Greg Doll of the nationally syndicated radio show “The Rabbi and the Reverend” Sunday mornings at 11 AM and evenings at 9 PM. He speaks frequently on leading a life of legacy, and is the author of the new book, What Will They Say About You When You’re Gone: Creating a Life of Legacy (Health Communications, Inc.).