Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Into The Light And Some Thoughts On Work

About five minutes before I pulled in my driveway last night my power came back on. How do I know that? Well, when I walked into the house all the lights were on and the Grateful Dead were jamming over in my music room just like they were on Sunday afternoon when the power went out. The CD was on the 2nd song so they hadn't been playing for long. Needless to say, I was happy to have my power back. A house without power is like a body without a heartbeat. The heartbeat has been restored and now the house is alive again. I felt like staying home today just to enjoy my electricity! I am most grateful for all the men and women who have been working diligently to restore power to all the affected neighborhoods. I hope those of you still without power will soon see the light.

Almost everyone I speak with about work tends to have one thing in common. Most agree that work can be mentally exhausting. The combination of demands, needs, pace, people, deadlines, and everything else that is part of a typical day tend to drain the brain and leave one lifeless by the end of the day. I used to think it was just me and that it might be related to getting older. However, age doesn't seem to have anything to do with it. The young feel the same way. It's probably a good thing to be tired at the end of an honest day's work whether it's in the factory or the office. Being tired, however, and being exhausted are two different things. When you leave work with barely enough energy to drive home and maintain minimum life support systems at the same time, that's a little more than being tired. What's the solution? I don't think it's more sleep. I think it's more about perspective. In the world of modern work, who serves who? Does work serve the needs of people or are people serving the needs of work? At its best, work should be energizing and creative. In reality, the virtual work that most people do today is boring, repetitive to the point of monotonous, and there is little opportunity for creativity. The challenge of work needs to be something other than simply getting through it. I sometimes struggle with finding meaning in much of what I do. What I find most meaningful in my workday is my interactions with people. These encounters are not always directly related to work. For the most part, though, they are life giving and I find great satisfaction in them. I think most people want to find their work interesting, challenging, energizing, and satisfying. They want to bring something of themselves into what they do. How do we do that? I don't have all the answers but I think the key is the engagement of people with other people in positive and cooperative ways. I do the same kind of work as many other people but what might set me apart is the way I do it. I make no attempt to hide who I am and what I am. I think my personality colors everything I do. I want to be who I am and I want others to do the same. In the spiritual life one talks about the true self and the false self. I want to be my true self at work. Unfortunately, in many work environments, what is seen most often are people's false selves. People young and old falsely believe it's all a game or a play in which they are actors. It's get back to the age old problems of ego, desire for power, unhealthy competition, and looking for someone to blame when things go wrong. How revolutionary it would be to replace these negative traits with cooperation, mutual support, shared responsibility, acceptance of different points of view and approaches, tolerance, compassion, and gratitude. When this happens, it won't matter if the work is boring. People will be excited to work and interact with others. Happily for me, in my personal work environment, the people around me more often than not display the positive qualities I have listed above. Admittedly I dream of a day when I don't have to work, but since I do need to work now, I feel very lucky to work in such a pleasant environment.

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