A Guide for the Unguided

I Didn’t Have to Quit My Job to Find Meaning in My Life

The path to meaning is way closer than you think

Tiffany Verbeck
9 min readJul 5, 2019


I didn’t have to quit my job to find meaning in my life. I thought I did, but it wasn’t true. For 6 years, I had been working in a public policy nonprofit in Washington, D.C. even though I realized I was not a policy person during my second year. I was a writer. A creative type in an academic world.

In order to find my life’s true meaning, I assumed that I would have to quit the ill-fitting job. That my day job needed to fit neatly into the creative definition of myself. During many of the public events I had planned over the years, I had yearned to hang out with the C-SPAN cameramen in the back of the room wearing blue jeans rather than the fancy VIP speakers at the stage. I was a blue jeans person — I was from the Midwest, damn it.

Then I read Emily Esfahani Smith’s book, The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed With Happiness. She opened my eyes to the real source of meaning, and it surprised the hell out of me.

Daily interactions.

She said that we could find meaning in our day-to-day.

What Daily Interactions Can Bring Us

According to Esfahani Smith, I already had a purpose in my life. It was already there, in my day-to-day. I didn’t need that salary bump or promotion — or even a job — to find meaning.

Apparently, meaning was all around me.

Honestly, I groaned when I first read this, thinking it was another mindfulness lesson.

What? I thought. That’s her solution? I had heard this crap before. Be present in the day-to-day. Pay attention while you wash the dishes. Look your dog in the eyes while you’re petting her.

Maybe that worked for other people, but I had found mindfulness difficult to implement. Daydreaming was too much fun for me.

But then she wrote that it’s enough to “say hi to the newspaper vendor” or “reach out to someone at work who seems down.” Those were extremely small acts.



Tiffany Verbeck

Tiffany Verbeck uses her awesome storytelling skills gained from a master’s degree to write on personal finance, lifestyle, and creativity: tiffanyverbeck.com.