Our culture values work. When you meet someone new, they almost always ask, “What do you “do” (for work)?” The conversation might then move to whether work is going well. If you are like most, you respond with an indication of how much time you spend working. “It keeps me busy,” you might reply. Or, “I’m super busy!”
You likely wear the number of hours you put in weekly like a badge of honor. This is especially true if your company has a 24–7 work culture.
My husband worked for a company like this for about six months. He worked from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. most days—and weekends, too. For the employees of that company, work was priority #1.
Even without a workaholic culture, many people allow work to take over their lives. Entrepreneurs, many of whom set out to work for themselves, so they have more freedom, are tied to their computers and phones. Employees feel the need to work longer and harder to succeed.
I know this is true for myself. I work most of the time, and having a home office doesn’t help.
Our society worships work. According to The Atlantic, “The decline of traditional faith in America has coincided with an explosion of new atheisms. Some people worship beauty, some worship political identities, and others worship their children. But everybody worships something. And workism is among the most potent of the new religions competing for congregants.”
A Definition of Workism
Workism is “the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work,” reports The Atlantic.
Yet, more people than ever before are unhappy with their work. They don’t see it as a career but a job. Even if they consider their job part of their career path, they don’t see it as a calling. It’s not their life’s purpose, nor does it serve as a descriptor of identity.
It’s just a job—one that takes them away from the things they would prefer to do and that takes up way too much of their time. It’s a way to earn a living, not live a life fully and with meaning.
Few of us get to do work we love, feel passionate about, or consider a calling. So, despite the time and focus spent on work, too many of us hate our jobs. And that leads to hating our lives.
Work Leads to Unhappiness
In fact, the very same article in The Atlantic claims, “Workism is making Americans miserable. Work has morphed into a religious identity promising transcendence and community, but failing to deliver on both.”
You may have experienced this… You get a new job that you really hope will give you a higher level of fulfillment as well as success. And you hope the culture will foster new relationships with likeminded people—those who want to do something extraordinary in the world. But it turns out to be just another job and just another disappointing workplace.
That may leave you wondering, “What next?” But the next job typically is just as empty and meaningless as the last and might require more time and attention. It doesn’t give you the identity or the life you truly want—even if it gives you financial or status success.
Thus, you are left wanting something more from your work and wondering where to find it.
The Need to Make a Living
“In the past century, the American conception of work has shifted from jobs to careers to callings—from necessity to status to meaning,” reports The Atlantic. Even if you hear the calling, even if you know what type of work would feel meaningful to perform, it can seem challenging to find a meaning-full and spirit-full job that also pays the bills.
That leaves you with a quandary. If you work simply for a paycheck, you meet an essential need—keeping a roof over your head—but live an empty life. If you follow your calling, you go hungry.
But work doesn’t have to be that way.
A Mindset Shift
It is possible to turn your current job into one with more meaning and spirit. After all, you can develop a mindset that supports such an experience.
You can focus on how what you do provides a service, how the paycheck allows you to care for yourself or your family, or how everything is part of the Divine Creation.
You also can change your mindset little by little from job to career to calling. You may think you just have a job, and maybe you do. But what if you had a career? What would that career path look like? Once you know, find a new job that helps you move along that career path.
Now go a step further. If that career path was part of your calling, what types of positions (jobs) might you want to find? How would those positions help you fulfill your purpose?
For example, maybe you work as a Vice President of finance for a big company. But you feel passionate about the arts and called to support artists and make art available to more people. You might seek out—and find—a finance position with the ballet company, theater, or art museum in your city. This would allow you to fulfill your purpose while earning a living doing something more than just “work.”
Tiny Pivot Points
I get that not everyone can leave a job to pursue a passion or a calling and find meaning-full and spirit-full work. If you are in that situation, begin to slowly pivot.
Here are a few ways to do that:
- Volunteer. Take a volunteer position with an organization that shares your sense of mission or calling. This work will add meaning to your days and weeks and might even bring you greater alignment with spirit.
- Stop identifying with your job. You are not your job. Even if you have a job that feels congruent with who you are—like “I’m a writer”—you are not the job. If the job went away, you would still be a person with values, passions, beliefs, and behaviors.
- Add on. Just as you can add ons to your favorite browser, you can do the same to your work and life. Something as small as an affirmation or prayer said before starting work can add meaning and spirit to your menial job. Or you could add on a little something extra—even though your boss didn’t ask for it—that makes you feel aligned with your calling (and that is in alignment with the company’s goals).
- Look for aligned positions. Start looking for jobs that align with your calling. They might not pay as well or provide the same job title status—at least not at first. However, you will find them more fulfilling. You can even take on this type of job part-time while you work your other job, maybe decreasing those hours over time. Then you could look for another full-time position with better pay and benefits, but that, again, allows you to pursue your calling.
- Take time off. Stop working 24–7. Give yourself a weekend. Observe the Sabbath. Take a vacation. Sit on your porch and read a book. Play with your kids or dogs. Do something meaning-full and spirit-full. Then, when you go back to your job, you will have filled your well, which will tide you over until you can fill it again.
Fill your life with meaning and spirit, and the work you do in the world will follow suit. It will begin feeling more meaning-full and spirit-full. As a result, you’ll feel more fulfilled. Little steps toward following your calling will lead you to become the person who is called and heeds the call.
The work you do in the world goes way beyond a job. It’s what you do every day—in small and large ways—that makes a difference. Allow that to become your identity.
Are you doing meaning-full and spirit-full work? Have you pivoted from a job to a calling? Tell me in a comment below. And if you know someone who would benefit from this post, please share it with them.
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Photo courtesy of Sergey Nivens