When you have spent two \u2014 or three \u2014 decades in your career, the adrenaline-fueled excitement of doing the thing you studied for, getting a raise that alters your standard of living, or leading a team of smart and capable people may have worn off. It\u2019s easy to forget how much energy you put into getting here and to let the difficult meetings, failed projects, or challenging economic blips take the joy out of your work. That\u2019s why it\u2019s important to have strategies in your pocket that help you find meaning in what you do and to remind you why you are doing it, even when you would rather not.\n\n\u201cI spend as much waking energy and time at work than with my own family,\u201d says Cam Ahler, vice president of IT for customer, commerce, and cloud at Bridgestone Americas. \u201cIt\u2019s important to me that I\u2019m providing some sort of impact.\u201d\n\nYou might not find meaning in the same place another person does, though, says Len Covello, CTO of Engage People. \u201cMeaning is such a personal thing for each individual,\u201d he says. \u201cFor some people, it\u2019s about working hard and delivering things for other people. For others, it\u2019s about enabling people to do great work.\u201d\n\nKnowing where other CIOs and tech leads have found meaning might help guide your search.\n\nMake something meaningful\n\nOne thing many CIOs, a few decades into their work, told me is that working for a company that does something meaningful has become so important as to be a major factor in their job choices.\n\n\u201cThe purpose of the company you work for has to align to something you believe in,\u201d says Lesley Salmon, CIO at Kellogg. \u201cAt Kellogg, we feed people. So the systems I create help us get food to our customers.\u201d Knowing she is working toward that mission helps her \u2014 and her team \u2014 get through rough patches, disappointments, and challenges. \u201cMaybe you\u2019ve got a tough meeting, a production issue, or a boring project,\u201d she says. \u201cWe often say to each other, \u2018We feed people. That\u2019s why we do this.\u2019 It feels nice.\u201d\n\nToshiba Vice President and General Manager Louis Ormond has no problem finding meaning in his work. \u201cWe create solutions that help our customers solve problems,\u201d he says. \u201cWe love technology. More than that, though, we love seeing how technology can solve problems. That\u2019s really the core of engineering: Taking a problem others may not see as solvable and using technology and scientific methods to solve it. It really is a dream job.\u201d\n\nFind a mission in your role\n\nRamya Ravichandar, vice president of product management and sustainability at JLL Technologies, feels privileged when it comes to finding meaning in her work because it\u2019s at the center of what she does at the company. \n\n\u201cMy work is directly related to sustainability,\u201d she explains. \u201cI help figure out how to use technology to further our sustainability goals, both internally and externally. Can you be more mission-driven than that?\u201d\n\nShe believes that every tech company can bring this meaning, this mission, to whatever their product goals are. \u201cIt\u2019s not somebody else\u2019s job to fix climate crisis,\u201d she says. \u201cIt\u2019s staring at us, no matter where you live.\u201d Whatever your company\u2019s product or mission is, it is possible to also work toward repairing the damage done to the climate. \u201cStripe has Stripe Climate,\u201d she says. \u201cAn initiative where they want every company using Stripe to contribute to carbon removal. Microsoft wants to go \u2018net zero\u2019 by 2030.\u201d\n\nAnd while your company is directing resources and people\u2019s attention toward fixing this looming crisis, it will also be creating roles, side roles, and meaning for you and for people who work for you.\n\nIdentify the meaning that\u2019s already there\n\nIf the meaning in your work isn\u2019t as obvious as solving problems, feeding people, or fixing our broken planet, you might have to look a little deeper. But that\u2019s true, even when you can find meaning in the company\u2019s mission. Tapping the strength it can give you \u2014 to work through dark days and difficult challenges \u2014 is a mindset.\n\n\u201cI embrace technology,\u201d says Salmon. \u201cBut my personal purpose is not about making the best technology. My purpose is to help people reach their potential.\u201d\n\nThis sounds like something that would require enormous effort. But it can, she says, take only one minute out of a day. It\u2019s a matter of focusing on people, seeing what they do well, and helping them see it, too. When done by a leader, this simple attention can have enormous outcomes on someone\u2019s life. Watching that unfold can bring gratification to yours.\n\n\u201cI was a couple of weeks into my job at a previous company,\u201d she explains. \u201cOne of my peers told me that someone on my team was a complete waste of space.\u201d She saw something unique in that person, though. He seemed to care about customer\u2019s problems. \u201cI told him that I appreciated the way he spoke to customers, the interest he showed,\u201d says Salmon. He told her that no one had ever spoken to him like that before and it helped him see this personality trait as a strength and to value it. One year later, he won the Heart of the Company award.\n\nVolunteer your skills to better the world\n\n\u201cWe all empty our buckets with day-to-day work and normal professional activities,\u201d says Bridgestone Americas\u2019 Ahler. \u201cBut if I have the opportunity to do something that serves our community, that fills my bucket back up.\u201d\n\nIf taking time to speak to school groups, volunteer, or rally your own time or company resources to further a noble cause feels like something you don\u2019t have time for, it is often enough, as a leader, to help others throw energy at causes they are passionate about.\n\n\u201cRallying and supporting people here to be their best authentic selves is sometimes all I can do. I\u2019ve got teammates who are passionate about certain causes,\u201d says Ahler, who doesn\u2019t have to find a cause, organize an initiative, and help them get involved. \u201cI only need to create space for them to support causes that are important to them in order to make their work something that allows them to flourish.\u201d This doesn\u2019t take much of his time, but it gives meaning to their work and to his.\n\nAddress the diversity gap\n\nSometimes the cause you need to rally around, though, is right in your wheelhouse. The decisions you make about who is on your team and how much of themselves they can bring to work can change their world, the outside world, and the life experience of many people.\n\n\u201cDoing your part as a leader to address the diversity gap is huge,\u201d says Salmon. \u201cSure, the quickest way to drive consensus is to have people who are similar to you. If your team is diverse, you will disagree more. But you will get to a better solution and diversity of thought is the right thing for your business.\u201d\n\nDoing this is complicated and challenging but brings enormous meaning to the workplace. Facing unconscious bias is a great place to start. To do this at Kellogg, Salmon set up a program to help people understand diverse points of view. \u201cWe started with a very visible event, bringing in the perspective of an African American group when the George Floyd situation was going on,\u201d she says. \u201cWe started with some factual education sessions. Gradually I started to get emails from my team saying, \u2018I\u2019ve got a story I\u2019d like to tell around diversity.\u2019\u201d\n\nShe made space for people to tell their stories and that\u2019s when the door opened.\n\n\u201cWe heard a transgender female tell her story to raise awareness and educate on Transgender Day of Visibility. We had foster-carers talk about the rewards, trials, and tribulations of that tough but rewarding role. A colleague who grew up in foster care also came forward to tell her inspirational story. We are creating psychological safety for everyone by educating all of us with these personal diversity stories,\u201d she says.\n\nBecome a coach\n\nAnother place to look for meaning is by helping other people work toward the level of success you have found, even if their path is, ultimately, different from yours.\n\n\u201cThe long-term coaching that we do as leaders for our team is very meaningful,\u201d says Claire Rutkowksi, senior vice president and CIO at Bentley Systems. \u201cSometimes people know what they want to do but they don\u2019t have the opportunity to do it.\u201d Helping people find their path creates meaning \u2014 and success for them \u2014 but it also brings great rewards to you.\n\n\u201cI had someone on my team who wasn\u2019t sure if he wanted to get into project management, so I said, \u2018Well, let\u2019s just try it. Do your job half time and do project management half the time. If you hate it, you\u2019ll know you don\u2019t want to do it.\u2019\u201d That person ended up loving it and changing course to go into project management. Rutkowksi found her role in that life choice rewarding.\n\n\u201cI feel like I made a difference, had an impact,\u201d she says. \u201cMaybe I didn\u2019t help society at large but for that individual person, I made a difference. That is very meaningful. And it is gratifying when people come back and tell you what a difference it made and what meaning it had for them.\u201d\n\nBecome an influencer in the tech community\n\nFinding meaning in your work, according to Colleen Tartow, director of engineering at Starburst Data, involves understanding your place in the larger technology community and helping to grow it in a direction that is motivating and inspiring to you. \u201cSpeaking publicly at conferences or meetups, as well as writing articles or white papers about my work and the challenges facing my industry, has helped me feel more connected to the business goals and more motivated by the work I\u2019m doing,\u201d she says.\n\nSometimes just stepping back into a world where people are aspiring to the position you are in can show you that there is already meaning in what you do.\n\nDo a postmortem\n\n\u201cNothing ever goes perfectly or according to plan,\u201d says Ormond. \u201cThat\u2019s where struggles arise.\u201d But there are lessons, and meaning, to be found in both the projects that go well and those that don\u2019t. The trick is to stop and learn the lessons that the successes and failures can teach you if you listen.\n\n\u201cAt the end of a project, we do a post-project review,\u201d he says. The goal is to make learning lessons from mistakes \u2014 and successes \u2014 an integral part of the process. This moment where people stop to talk about what happened and what they learned along the way is not only a good practice for your future projects, but it helps you find the meaning in what you do. \u201cIt allows people to do the emotional healing that has to take place to get over the struggles. It\u2019s a good mechanism for learning from your mistakes \u2014 and from what went right \u2014 and allows the team to either heal or rejoice, depending on the circumstance,\u201d says Ormond.\n\nCreate leaders\n\n\u201cWhen you are helping others, it\u2019s fulfilling for yourself as well,\u201d says Engage People\u2019s Covello. \u201cI think helping others, for me, brings a lot of meaning. I see myself as the servant leader of a very proficient team. So, a big part of my job is enabling them. It\u2019s fulfilling to see them be successful.\u201d\n\nThat help can be the day-to-day stuff of helping someone get unblocked or find a solution. Or it can be larger. It can be helping someone to see themselves as proficient, successful, and \u2014 eventually \u2014 a leader.\n\n\u201cSomebody once said to me that you\u2019re not a leader until you\u2019ve created a leader who can create a leader,\u201d Salmon says. \u201cThat was a turning point for me.\u201d\n\nCreating your replacement, growing people who can lead other IT teams, and building the leadership team of the future, is \u2014 many people told me \u2014 a great source of meaning for anyone in the role of CIO.\n\n\u201cMany of my IT managers have told me directly they want to be a CIO one day,\u201d agrees Eric Tan, CIO of Coupa. \u201cI strive to do everything in my power to help them reach that goal \u2014 whether it\u2019s owning new projects or helping them network. I have always believed in investing in people to become our future leaders.\u201d\n\nCreating leaders is a big job and an important one. Leaders change the culture, productivity, and happiness level of everything they touch \u2014 in their team and in everything their team does. Creating those leaders is how you change the world, even after you have done your part and decided that it\u2019s time you stayed out of the game. \u201cYou have to keep the ball rolling,\u201d says Salmon.