3 Realities That Reframe Your Work & Give It Meaning

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How We View Our Work Matters Immensely.

I've read there are three ways people view their work:

  1. Just a job, something you do and then you get to go home. 
  2. A challenge in which you climb the corporate ladder. 
  3. A call, vocation and your life's purpose. 

You might read this list and think, "I see myself in all of these." I'm sure you do, but if you spend some time reflecting, It's likely that one drives you more than the rest. 

But, I think there's something missing from the list. Let's add a #4: Because people count on you.

People Count On You

Each year at work (I work in higher education), a cocktail hour is hosted for those celebrating career milestones. I'm most intrigued by those who have been with with company for 30+ years. They come from all departments, but one year a majority of this elite bunch emerged from our facilities and maintenance team. They huddled together near the door, basking in their accomplishments, but somehow uneasy in the limelight. They walked outside as quickly as possible. So, I followed. "What's kept you here three decades?" I asked one. "I like my job, but my goal was for my daughter to go to school here." Hats off to you, my friend. His words remind me of this quote:

The fruit of my labors is not my own: for I am preparing the way for the achievements of another.
— Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island

Your Work Is Never Just About You

Last night my dear friend Ryan, who took me to the church service 21-years ago where I had a faith experience that changed my life, sent me a screen shot of his son's phone. His son was reading a devotional I've written for The Bible App. Ryan could not have known that 21-years ago, as a high school senior, taking me to church would some day impact his son's life. Ryan was what we church folk call backslidden, and I had no clue, but as we stood at the alter that night, something happened to both of us. His investment in me is paying off in his son - neither of us saw that coming two decades ago. 

3 Realities That Reframe Your Work & Give It Meaning

  1. Legacy - We call it Solomon's Temple, but really it was his father David who set him up to win by raising the money to build it. Your work - however un-important it seems - will impact the next generation. When you've lost sight of the meaningfulness of your work, when you don't want to keep going and when you're bumping your head on the next rung of the corporate ladder, remember that your work is never just about you.
  2. Community - You might work alone, but you do not work in a vacuum. I'd like to thank whomever arrives at work before the rest of us and brews four pots of coffee. My boss tells me that a job of the leader is to do the work that would distract everyone else from doing their best work. This thought challenges me; I have some growing to do.
  3. Death - Sorry to end on such a grim note, but whatever it is you're building, you're going to hand it off to someone who probably hasn't put in the work to earn it. No matter. The fact that we'll all clock out for the last time should put our work in perspective. What will we create that makes the world better? That makes our block better? Everybody's working for the weekend, but who's working for eternity?

Question: When You Want to Give Up at Work, What Keeps You Going?