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Work is What We Make It

Sungai Buloh's Gardening masters.Image via Wikipedia

Why do some people love to work in their gardens and others hate to garden? It's not about gardening, is it? The act of gardening -- in and of itself -- has no meaning. Each of us, when we think about the hobby of gardening, give that activity meaning. 

Same thing with work. On any work team, there are team members who enjoy the work and others who dread showing up each day. Same work, different reactions.

Do you think you could come to see your work -- your job, your position, you role -- differently? As a joy. Satisfying. Fun and fulfilling. Or are you like the old TV character, Dobie Gillis, who said, "I don't have anything against work. I just figure, why deprive somebody who really loves it?"

Do you know someone who has turned a routine, mundane procedure they have to do every day into an enjoyable event? We've all heard stories, or experienced for ourselves, what it's like to be on a flight with an attendant who sees his or her job as more than just handing out peanuts.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome aboard flight 458, direct from Miami to Philadelphia....Now that I have your attention, my name is Andrea and I'll be your first flight attendant today. Actually, we are en route to Denver so if you were not planning to go there, now would be a good time to get off the plane...In the event that we mistakenly land in a body of water, a decision must be made. You can either pray and swim like crazy or use your seat as a flotation device...We will be serving breakfast in flight this morning. On the menu I have eggs benedict and fruit crepes...not really, but they sound good to me. However, the flight attendants will be offering a choice of an omelette or cold cereal."

Andrea has connected meaning to her work. She's a comic-lite. She makes the chore of air travel a little more pleasurable. She makes people chuckle. And I bet she's laughing inside along with them.

  • If we can't do the same, we spend our eight to 10 hours every day at work in quiet desperation.
  • If we can, we keep ourselves recharged, fulfilled and satisfied.

What we do is not as important as how we see what we do. Check out Dave and Wendy Ulrich's newest book, The Why of Work. There's an article about their book in this month's Psychology Today. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts in heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well."

Notice that King didn't say, "If you're a street sweeper and don't like it, get out! Now! Find something to do that you like better." He didn't say you couldn't do that, but he did say to do well whatever it is that you're called to do at that moment. It's that "bloom where you're planted concept."

Remember the old-time comedian George Burns? He had the right attitude. He said, "Fall in love with what you are doing for a living. To be able to get out of bed and do what you love to do for the rest of the day is beyond words. I'd rather be a failure in something that I love than be successful in something that I hate."

Notice that Burns didn't say, "If you hate what you're doing, change jobs. Now! Find something to do that you like better." He said find meaning in what you're doing for a living right now. Whether that's sweeping streets, attending to air travelers or gardening. Work is what we make it.

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