Friday, July 11, 2008

Some Thoughts On Work

Yesterday I received the following email.

Oh Great Spiritual Advisor of Humana, let me ask you a question. What do you do to jump start yourself when your professional life feels like it is in a rut? Every job I'm interested in I can't get an interview for, and yesterday was one of those days when I felt like the opportunity to move beyond what I'm already doing had passed me by. I feel like I no longer fit in here. Just wondering if you ever felt that way. (Humana is the company that I work for)

OK, I included the opening line of the email I received because if I had a dream job at my company, being a "Spiritual Advisor" might be it. The other dream job outside my company would be an actor in Corona Beer commercials.

I doubt if there is a person who has not felt at some point like the friend who sent me this email. Work is not always wonderful and exciting. That's why they call it WORK. The activity that many people want to engage in at work is called PLAY. Occasionally WORK and PLAY can be done simultaneously. More often than not, however, they are separated. At this time I don't have specific answers or advice for my friend. I do have some general thoughts about work and its place in our lives. People in general seem to complain about work more than any other area in their lives. I hear it everyday when I ride up and down the elevators. There are always going to be tasks that we must perform that will annoy, bore, or frustrate us. In every workplace, depending on where you stand, there will always be workers or leaders who appear to be idiots. In some cases they really are. I'm sure someone at some time has thought this about me. I got my first job when I was sixteen years old. Therefore, I have been working for 40+ years. I've seen it all. It is my opinion that many people are dissatisfied with work because they give it way too much importance. You should work to live, not live to work. We all want our work to be financially rewarding and emotionally satisfying but you can't depend on work alone to give all the satisfaction you need in life. Work is just one slice of the pie. It doesn't matter if you collect trash for a living or if you are a highly trained and educated professional person. There is more to life than work. It is equally important to play, to develop satisfying relationships, and to spend time in reflective thought. In general, work is usually about doing something. Maybe it's tipping the trash can or performing open heart surgery. To be honest, there are very few tasks that I perform at work that reflect who I am. What reflects who I am is how I perform these tasks. Writing these daily thoughts is probably the best example of me being me at work. How are you being you? In a recent employee survey, one of the questions was "At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best everyday"? I think this goes deeper than whether or not you have an opportunity to exercise a skill or talent. I think it also means "Do you have an opportunity in the workplace to be who you really are"? If you can be who you really are, and put yourself into the tasks you perform, the chances for job satisfaction increase greatly. Of course, if you hate what you do, you think the boss is a jerk, and nothing the company does meets your approval, maybe it is time to move on. It's also a reality that some places are just terrible places to work. If you're overworked, underpaid, never appreciated, expected to do the impossible with none of the tools required, get out as soon as you can. Yes, work is work but it shouldn't be a horrible experience everyday. It's one part of the rhythm and flow of life and ideally it should blend in with the other aspects of your life to create a sense of wholeness. Work should not take over your life or break your spirit.

1 comment:

chimoose said...

It's good to know that your friends and coworkers come to you for this kind of advice. I work for Humana too, and it can definitely be tricky trying to navigate the bureaucracy (I used to be in HR; believe me, I know!).
Hope that you're able to help your friend. As I'm sure you've told people - the best way to navigate the system is to avoid the system. Want to understand better what goes on in department X? Find someone who knows someone (WELL) in department X . . . and get them to broker a meeting for you. Use those six degrees of separation, right? Thanks for sharing.