Do you love the work that you do?
I do. I love my work so much. How much? The other day, someone on Facebook asked what we read to relax, and as I scrolled through my Kindle it became apparent to me that the reading that I love the most (the stuff for leisure) is actually work-related. This is all on me. I’ve said it for years, and you can even Google it: I don’t have a job… I just have the work that I love to do… the work that I was meant to do. When I look at friends and acquaintances, I’m often shocked at how many of them don’t take true joy out of their professional work. Many feel stuck, in a rut or simply where they are and can’t risk leaving (without it invoking a major financial penalty). I’ve always felt lucky like this. I’ve always been someone who was able to make a living doing the work that they were passionate about (knowing full-well that following your passion is often a professional recipe for disaster).
Maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe we have it all wrong.
That’s the feeling you will get after reading the article, Workism Is Making Americans Miserable, from The Atlantic. Here was the one sentence that through me into a tailspin: “What is workism? It is the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.”
Is work’s only purpose economic production?
While it may not be a revelation, it’s something to ponder. Again, scrolling back through the archives of Six Pixels of Separation, you will find tons of thoughts on why meaning and passion in work is the best place to be. Why work eight-plus hours a day (and be away from your family and friends) if it’s just a job? Why do all of that heavy lifting if you don’t love it, when you could be with your family (or practicing a music instrument, or doing art, or… you get the idea)? What is the point of working if it doesn’t make a statement? Privileged words when looked at today, but this was my thinking when I lived in a crappy studio apartment that I could hardly afford, after I had been fired from a marketing job and was in debt. I just couldn’t imagine not doing work that wasn’t directly tied to my identity… and what I perceived to be my purpose.
The type of work that we do.
What has become abundantly clear is that technology and connectivity has given rise to many more people who are working on their own terms. It has – without question – enabled many people to switch to either a freelance schedule or become entrepreneurs. You would think that this is a good thing. It is a good thing, until it becomes toxic and unhealthy:
“But our desks were never meant to be our altars. The modern labor force evolved to serve the needs of consumers and capitalists, not to satisfy tens of millions of people seeking transcendence at the office. It’s hard to self-actualize on the job if you’re a cashier—one of the most common occupations in the U.S.—and even the best white-collar roles have long periods of stasis, boredom, or busywork. This mismatch between expectations and reality is a recipe for severe disappointment, if not outright misery, and it might explain why rates of depression and anxiety in the U.S. are ‘substantially higher’ than they were in the 1980s, according to a 2014 study.”
That pressure. That funk.
We’ve all felt it. Social media has created an entirely new (and highly public) comparison lifestyle that we all know is unhealthy. We all publish not the truth about where we are at professional, but we publish (and broadcast) the person that we want the world to think that we are. The borders between keeping your social media private (for family and friends) with a public space (think LinkedIn versus Facebook) has all but melted into the ether. Leaders used to ask me if it’s wise to maintain two types of digital profiles (one public and one professional) and now that question seems silly (in fact, it’s never asked anymore). When it’s all public, we are all public. Who hasn’t felt bored at work, and trolling Facebook has only made you realize that maybe this isn’t just a moment in time at the office, but you being to question your very existence and value in the work force? Comparison is a cancer… on social media its terminal.
Why not love the work that you do?
The article in The Atlantic isn’t taking a shot at anybody who is engaged, in love and passion about their job. The Atlantic is just questioning how hard we are all working, what we’re working for and – maybe – if we’re letting our work define our life’s purpose much more than we should.
Great questions lead to great answers.