Associate Vice President for the Center of Applied Learning and Social Impact Caroline Morris knows what it takes to pursue a meaningful life. It requires a thoughtful process of examining long-term goals and current interests, and creating a practical pathway to your goal. Morris and Honors Program Director Steven Rodenborn meet one on one with students to help them build personalized pathways through a series of writing exercises and discussions. Here, she shares her best advice about finding your own life of purpose, no matter what you do from 9 to 5. 

1. Recognize that meaningful work is possible.

“A lot of people think they should feel lucky just to get a job and pay their rent. But part of our job at St. Edward’s is to make people more competent than that. You’ll meet those minimums; what are you going to do once you get there?”

2. Dig deep.

“Many people think meaningful work will just fall out of the sky. But it’s a much more active and messy process. It might start with asking yourself: What is the work I would do anyway, regardless of the money or societal approval?”

3. Realize that the leap might not be as far as you think.

“People often perceive the distance between where they are and where they want to be as much farther than it actually is. Maybe you need to do seven things to get into the grad school or job you want. You’ve got time. Do the seven things.”

4. Understand your personal definition of meaning.

“Meaningful work is work in which you are not counting the hours on the clock. Do you feel awake and challenged? Do you feel like you’re making a difference? Your work should have some congruence with your identity and who you want to be in the world.”

5. Take action.

“There is often an idea that someone must ‘rescue’ you to help you get where you need to be. But I like to use a phrase I’ve borrowed from whitewater rafting and rock climbing, which is: How can you be an active participant in your own rescue? You need to own the idea that you can help yourself get unstuck, and start doing the work to find a meaningful career path.”