Too often, we view work as an obligation. A means to an end. A way to put food on the table. A begrudging exchange of effort for money. The mental image we have is like Homer Simpson dragging himself to work, suffering monotonous tasks, and getting out of there as quickly as possible.
The design and intention of work, however, is not all about dreariness. We spend almost a third of our day at work. If we can find a way to allow our labor to be purposeful and life bringing, rather than draining and soul-sucking, it will transform our mood and our perspective.
The Meaning of Work
We often talk about “the meaning of life”, questioning the nature of existence with an intent to discover purpose. We ought to treat work the same way. In fact, we ought to see work as a part of that greater question.
Labor is important, not just for the individual, but for the collective. You can (and should) give your money and time to non-profits seeking to do good in the world. But you should also figure out how your daily effort serves others. Your job is a mission field. No matter what you do, it is a ministry.
That is not just good news for others (the people you are serving); it is good news for you! Nothing brings us more joy than purpose. And service is the greatest avenue for purpose.
Why are you working? What service are you providing? How can you do it better? How can you enjoy it better?
Some of you may need to change jobs, but the majority of people reading this just need to change perspective. You probably got into your job for a reason. Why? Not just the surface-level reason (like making money), but the deep reason (you could make money doing all sorts of things, why this?).
The key to finding value in our work is connecting our work to our values. Doing work because you “have” to or just “for the paycheck”, robs us of the potential within ourselves. If your values are lying dormant and unrealized, you will naturally be disgruntled.
To awaken your sense of values, you need to first know what they are. Naming is important. How can you be intentional about living your values when you don’t really know what they are? Having some vague, emotional or situational driven idea of what matters to you is not enough. Take the time to figure out what really matters and why. When you really know what makes you who you are, almost any activity can be folded into that purpose. Almost any job or task can fit under the umbrella and be transformed into something that gives you life rather than something that drains the life out of you.
Work is important. It is not a means to an end. It is a resource. An opportunity. Just like home or recreation, work is an important and vital avenue for self-expression and communal service.