People choose what they do for work for a variety of reasons that are completely unrelated to a sense of purpose, meaning or contribution.
It’s so common to exclude these human needs from the world of work that it seems normal and perfectly logical to do so.
However, if you really sat down and pondered the implications of what we consider “normal” you’d seriously reconsider going without purpose, meaning and contribution.
Some people are doing what they do because it’s a job that’s close to home, or that has good benefits, or that pays a little too well to just walk away from – they would think themselves crazy for leaving even if their health and happiness suffer as a result of staying.
Some people select their job because it’s what they think they’re good at (even if they don’t like it that much), or because it’s what they were educated to do, or because it’s the choice their parents supported, or it’s the job that was the compromise between what they wanted and what their parents approved of. Or they’ve chosen to work for people that they feel sorry for (yes, I once had a client share with me that this is why he felt so compelled to do what he did for who he did it for – and he was getting a Masters degree to keep doing it).
Some of these reasons you’ve heard before. Some might be new to you. One of them might be your real reason – or parts of it.
But just because something is “normal” doesn’t make it right, wise or useful even. The reason you work creates the kind of world you live in. Like it or not.
The best business class I ever took as part of acquiring my degree was at Lund University when I was an exchange student in Sweden from 2001 to 2002. The professor of the class was a guest lecturer from a university in France.
The course content centered around the idea of trust as part the business equation. The biggest part of the business equation actually. Basically the reason we can give money to someone in exchange for something is because trust exists. Even if it’s the government giving your tax dollars to someone to help you – like the public library.
So even though there’s nothing inherently wrong with choosing work for any of the aforementioned reasons ask yourself what is costs in terms of trust.
I am saying that the reason you feel so uncomfortable doing business when you do is precisely because meaning and purpose and contribution is absent or is seen as completely impractical for the world of work and business. Yet meaning, purpose and contribution in your work is what creates that all important sense of trust in human transactions and interactions.
Consider that when you go to someone for something that they offer no matter how seemingly insignificant, it’s because you need their help. Someone is:
Listening to your husband’s heart after an operation to see how things are going.
Making you a cup of something warm and dark to start your day.
Tending to the anal gland expression of your furry child.
Tailoring pants that you love so that you don’t need to buy a new pair just because your weight shifted up or down.
Making legal documents legal. Because they don’t do it all by themselves.
You need help. You can’t and don’t do it all because you can’t be an expert and certified and registered to do everything.
We need to trust each other because our society and what we do for work is actually designed to profit from trust.
And regardless of what you need, when you are in need, you’d like to trust that you are in capable, not to mention, trustworthy hands.
Away from home, I once saw a walk-in clinic doctor and returned the next week only to be recognized and asked: “What’s your problem now?” I never got better from the week before and now I felt even worse. Extra worse now that I was asking this person for help. But I was too physically weak to stand up for myself or walk away and find someone else. My head was cloudy and my body was aching. I was in a vulnerable place. I’ll never forget how unhealed I felt by the whole experience. I’ll never forget how it felt to have no trust whatsoever in this person, and to be served by them. For my health and well-being no less.
Given the choice, what quality of doing and being do you want from someone …
… operating on you when you or a loved one needs surgery?
… serving you at your coffee shop every morning?
… taking care of your children while you’re at work?
… cutting your hair?
… fixing your car?
You want a human being and an experience to feel good about.
As a culture we expect the soulful quality of trust to be especially present in the context of receiving someone’s work. And when it’s not you do experience a kind of devastation because … you trusted.
This is often why we delay the help we need. We’re hoping to get the name of “someone good.” We want to work with someone that does work for internal reasons. We want someone who’s there for us not just to pay the bills or please their parents or because they don’t have the courage to learn about themselves more in depth to trust their own decision-making skills.
The fallacy is to believe that fulfilling work isn’t necessary. That fulfilling work doesn’t pay as much as unfulfilling work or maybe more accurately that money is what buys you your happiness, safety or freedom – even though money alone has yet to earn trust.
Not even your own trust with you.
Your work ought to feel like a privilege to do.
Because someone right now is wishing for you. They want to be served by you. They want to trust and have peace of mind. They want you to do what you’re meant to be doing.
It’s scary to think that your dentist picked his job only because of the perks; that your baby-sitter doesn’t like kids but just needs the money; that your mechanic is only trying to please his father by doing what he did for work; and that your surgeon is trying to fulfill her family’s dream of ‘making it’ after immigrating to North America.
So we make laws, rules, regulations, policies, and procedures for everyone’s work … all to make it okay to trust those uninspired by their work that cannot be trusted. Of course you can say that these things offer standards, but I doubt that you are personally aware of or care to know the standards of every occupation that exists and that you interact with. I think what you’d rather do is trust that someone wants to practice the standard of their industry and in many cases, practice better than the standard of their industry.
When your choice of work is oriented around an external “something or someone” instead of your intrinsic satisfaction that gleefully meets a hunger in the world, the rest of us (who actually need you) are worried because the well-being of our children, homes, family units, communities, animals, environment, bureaucratic structures and nations are at risk.
And when you choose to go to work for a more intrinsic reason you are helping to evolve the consciousness of our world by being in your rightful role.
You make trust work. Literally.
Asked in earnest (for your journaling pleasure): What are the reasons – the real reasons – behind what you do for work + why? What influenced you and how do you feel about that? What do you want to do about that (if anything)?
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