Meaningful Work

>> Monday, September 1, 2008

In honor of Labor Day, I thought I would write a little about work. How can people find meaning in their work?

Some people are truly blessed-they get paid for doing what they love. Others get underpaid for doing too much of what they like and many do something they hate and it doesn't matter what they get paid. And what about the rest of us in various stages of work stress and burn out?

It comes down to priorities of money and time. How much is money worth to us? Is money really worth it to do something we hate day after day? That sounds pretty toxic to me. What about time? As far as anyone knows for sure this is our only shot at life on earth. Can we really afford to continue on a path of work when it is truly a means to an end that could come at any time?

A colleague who has no children and works long hours asked me for ideas on how to deal with stress. During our conversation, his feelings ranged from frustration to panic to anger regarding his job. He mentioned, only half-joking that he was finding beer his only way to deal with stress.

I can't stress enough, that relying on toxic substances to relieve stress, whether it be alcohol, nicotine, illegal drugs, gambling or bullying can only lead one into further stress. It surely doesn't make our work more meaningful.

Finding meaning from work must come from doing something we love, though sometimes we can't choose to get paid for doing what we love. Can we find some meaning in the service we are providing? If not, we need to look elsewhere in our lives for meaning. I recommend finding meaning from a nontoxic action.

Ideas include: hobbies of art and creation, exercise, yoga, meditation, learning a cultural skill like Italian or French cooking, searching for deeper spiritual/religious meaning, or volunteering to help those less fortunate.

These nontoxic actions can both relieve stress and add meaningful work to our lives. Wouldn't it be nice to wish each other Happy Labor Day?