Crafting your recipe for GREAT work (that works for you!)

Benjamin Lane
Oct 2, 2018 · 8 min read

We all have different motivations and mindsets for working. But we all work because work provides us with something we need (or want). Some work to pursue their crazy passions, others work for professional prestige. Some work for cash money, others work to feel as if they are contributing to something larger than themselves #millennial #idealist #me.

But how many of us have really taken the time to reflect and understand what our motivations for work are? How many of us have taken the time to build our recipe for GREAT work? (not me… until recently)

Building clarity on who and what makes you feel energized is the first step to cultivate work that really works for you. A clearer understanding of your recipe for fulfilling work will help you opt-out of the many distractions life throws our way, and enable you to focus on the 1% of people, organisations and opportunities that align with your strengths, vision, and values.

What’s his recipe?

Before we get into the action, let’s take a quick look at some of the research #theboffins

Understanding our mindsets

At the heart of our recipe is an understanding of our mindset to work. In essence, why do I work? Amy Wrzesniewski (a Yale Prof’) talks about three different orientations people view their work:

  • A job: a necessity that’s not a major positive in our lives (think paycheck to fund life outside of work)
  • A career: something to “win” or “advance” (think prestige and social status)
  • A calling: a source of enjoyment and fulfillment where you’re doing socially useful work (think self-expression and meaning)

The point is not to say that one orientation is better than the other (and these are not exclusive categories), but for us to build a better understanding of our current orientation and how this affects our motivation and satisfaction with our work.

Understanding our motivations

Related to this, our recipe requires an understanding of our motivations. In essence, what motivates me to do great work? One real motivator for most is money, and money obviously matters. But how much does it matter for you?

Mr Motivator

All the research tells us that money is important, but it is far from the number 1 motivator. Daniel Pink in his book Drive points to 3 key areas that lead to enhanced performance and personal satisfaction:

  • Autonomy: the desire to be self-directed
  • Mastery: the urge to keep improving at something that’s important to us
  • Purpose: the sense that what we do produces something transcendent or serves something meaningful beyond ourselves

Psychology Today also talk about 3 factors that are the building blocks of motivation:

  • Security: getting paid “enough” and feeling secure in our job
  • Identity: feeling proud about working for a company or team and getting recognised for our efforts
  • Stimulation: working on exciting projects and learning new skills in new domains

Whilst all of these are probably present to some degree for you, the important question is which of these play the largest role in your recipe for fulfilling work?

Building your recipe for work that works for you

Enough of the small talk. Let’s get down to business.

Inspired by the book “How to Find Fulfilling Work”, I want to share an exercise that will help you get clearer on your recipe for fulfilling work. You don’t have to be actively looking for a change, and you might already be very happy with your current work. The only requirement is that you are seeking to build a better understanding of yourself (the good and the bad).

To build our recipe we must use a little imagination and create some space for a little reflection.

“ Study the past if you would define the future.” Confucius

Now we are all fired up with a bit of Confucius, let’s get the ball rolling!

Step 1: Re-imaging our work

Have you noticed that our job descriptions are focused on the hard (boring) stuff — responsibilities and qualifications — rather than around talents and individual traits?

Look familiar?

Similarly, our career searches are often driven by salary, sector, size of company, function, and responsibilities in the role. But are these the things which really drive your satisfaction and success in a role?

Let’s have a bit of fun and turn the idea of a standard job search upside down! Let’s imagine that instead of companies advertising career openings on job boards, people publicly advertised their what they were looking for.

And instead of people advertising what sector, function and responsibilities they were looking for, let’s imagine that we only shared the stuff that really drives our fulfillment… Let’s imagine that we only shared our unique recipe of what makes work GREAT (this sounds like one messed up cooking school).

Step 2: Reflecting on what tastes good (for you)

Now we have re-imaged the world, it’s time to find a quiet spot armed with a pen and some paper (ideally writing paper vs baking paper). Take your time to answer the below questions. Remember, our recipe is never going to be perfect, and do not worry if nothing insightful comes right away. Just start writing whatever comes into your mind without editing or judgment #easiersaidthandone.

My mindset and motivations

  • Why do I work? What defines worthwhile or interesting work for me? What do growth, fulfillment, money have to do with it?
  • What motivates me to do my best work? What role do learning, recognition, meaning play?

My best work

  • When am I at my best? How do I show up? What I am doing? Who am I with?
  • What really energises me? When did I come home from work bursting with exciting stories? When was I most looking forward to a day at work?

My Talents

  • What are my strengths? What comes naturally to me? What are my superpowers?
  • What are my personal qualities? What do people say about me?

My interests

  • What am I curious about? What do I naturally seek to learn more about?
  • What are my passions? What do I love?

My values

  • What do I really value in life?
  • What causes do I believe in?

What else is really important to me (things like location, travel, $$$ etc)?

Step 3: Identifying your hero ingredients

Once you have some of this on paper (in a very messy way), the next step is to reflect on your answers. What are the key themes? What came up time and time again? What really drives your fulfillment in your career?

After a walk and some thought, for me it came down to three broad areas:

1. The people I work with: For me, and for most, it is my manager who has the number one impact on my growth and satisfaction.

2. The skills I am using every day: For me, it is less of a factor of what “activities” I am completing, and more about the playing to my strengths and growing my skills on a daily basis.

3. The values of the organisation: Last but not least, I want to see a strong alignment between my organisation values and my own personal values.

Based on your themes (or using the above) write down the specific details of what really matters for you. This could be as a poster sketch or a word document — whatever works for you.

A poster version — from the book “How to Find Fulfilling Work”

Step 4: Getting others to taste your recipe

We are not alone in our journey. Now that you are (hopefully) a little clearer on your recipe for fulfilling work, a next step is to share this with others to get inspiration, feedback or advice.

One option is to make a list of ~10 people you know from different walks of life who have a range of job/careers/callings and share your recipe. Ask them to recommend specific work that might fit with what you have written.

Another option and something I did is to share this with potential employers as a way to better understand if your values are aligned. Some organisations genuinely didn’t see the purpose of me sharing such a document, and others loved it. For me, this has become a valuable tool that helps me assess and evaluate my different opportunities.

Step 5: Keep refining your cooking!

This is just the start and your recipe will continue to evolve. But for now: Don’t forget to lick the bowl! What did you learn about yourself? What work did people recommend for you? How can this help you refine your work? Are there any opportunities you could start to explore?

As someone who is constantly getting excited/distracted about different opportunities, I have found my recipe a powerful tool that helps me cultivate opportunities and enable my growth.

My (current) recipe is below. I plan to tweak it and pass it down for generations to come! How clear are you on your recipe for fulfillment and success?

#Lesson 6: We must do the work to get clear on what works for us! Only then can we cultivate opportunities that enable us to be at our best.

If you enjoyed this story please click the “clap” button and share to help others find it. Would love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments below.

For more articles, podcasts and goodies visit www.discoverylane.org

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by + 374,357 people.

Subscribe to receive our top stories here.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Join The Startup’s +793K followers.

Sign up for Top 10 Stories

By The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Subscribe to receive The Startup's top 10 most read stories — delivered straight into your inbox, once a week. Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +793K followers.

Benjamin Lane

Written by

Connecting with people from all walks of life to inspire, empower and deliver lasting impact around our world and meaning in the everyday. www.discoverylane.org

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +793K followers.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store