Work – Another 4 letter word

Work gets a bad rap.  You hear it all the time … I hate my job, I can’t wait to retire, TGIF, I need a vacation, if only I didn’t have to work, if I won the lottery, I’d quit my job  … the list goes on and on.

How did this happen?  If you look up “work” in the dictionary you get … “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result” and “a task or tasks to be undertaken; something a person or thing has to do”.   Neither of these are inherently BAD, nor do they assume that you are getting something (like money or payment) in exchange for your efforts.

Humankind has ALWAYS had to work … for our whole lives! In fact, it wasn’t until the late 19th century that the concept of retirement was even introduced AND … it wasn’t until 1935 that the US proposed the Social Security Act. People, that’s only 83 years ago. Only 3 generations of people have had the opportunity to retire. I think its impacted our current mindset. 1 in 5 retirees experiences depression. It increases the chances of physical illness by 60% and depression by 40%.

I wonder if there’s not a different mindset.  A mindset around – My Life’s Work vs WORK.

My good friend and inspiration, Michael Sunnarborg talks about work a lot in his blogs (check them out!).  This makes sense since he’s a coach, trainer and HR guru. However, when he talks about HIS work he says “My whole life is my life’s work. Some of it I get paid for and some of it I don’t. That doesn’t make a difference in its impact.”

I have been meditating (or ruminating) on this for the last few years and I’m finding that as I collect birthdays, this rings more and more true every year.  My life’s work is not WORK in the traditional sense of a job with a paycheck and that’s a freeing concept. Rather than looking at my work as something to get through, get over or tolerate, I have begun to look at where I’m spending my time. Is it on the things that support my values, align with my priorities and will leave a legacy I’m proud of?  Bonus points on if it hits on these criteria AND it pays a little something😊

So, right now, my life’s work includes:

~ Raising kind, honest, caring, responsible, self-aware and authentic human beings (any parent can tell you that parenting is DAMN hard work)

~ Serving, as a volunteer, on boards that align with my belief that every child deserves a safe, loving and nurturing home (The Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, Bellis and Childrens Home Society are amazing!!)

~  Being a good citizen of the world whether in my relationship with my husband Tom, as a good neighbor and friend or just being nice to the person in line in front of me at the grocery store (I practice this a lot when letting cars cut in front of me in traffic)

~ Creating a team culture at Mt Olivet Rolling Acres that allows everyone to leverage their strengths, ask for help and remove barriers in their jobs.  (my goal is that leading by example will trickle through the whole organization and ultimately improve the quality of life for the people we support)

As I look back on my life, I can see that I’ve always gravitated towards jobs that nurture people through times of profound change and that I like doing that best when I’m working on really hard problems with really smart people.   I guess you can say – that’s my life’s work and I LOVE it! And … I can see myself doing this for a long long long time.  It makes it fun to get up in the morning and helps me sleep well at night.

What’s your life’s work and how does that change your perspective about WORK?