Work gets a bad name. An odd thing to say as Labor Day approaches in the United States. Labor Day was created to celebrate “the social and economic achievements of American workers.” While the credit to who instigated Labor Day is unsettled, it likely sprung from a carpenter or a machinist. Both builders, what work is meant to do.
At work, we feel a mix of discontentment and satisfaction. Any given day, there will be an ebb and flow. After all, human nature and the nature of any organization contain a breeze and gust of uncertainty. Most can handle the slight tide. The undercurrents disrupt, however. We need to manage and lead through the undercurrents while standing firm in the waves.
A few statistics on work:
- The U.S. ranks fifth as the most productive nation. Luxembourg is the most productive.
- Mexico and Costa Rica work the longest number of hours The U.S. is sixteenth.
- Well-being at work was broken down into three pillars: environment, appreciation, and emotion. Seventy-one percent felt positive about their work.
- Still, two-thirds of U.S. workers are disengaged. The reason is most likely because of the boss.
Work was never easy.
Work was never easy. Prior to the shift to urban areas, field and factory work dominated. Today, many talk about pursuing purpose and passion, yet both take work. Patience is woven through purpose and passion. Supporting ourselves and our families takes precedence though, or it should. If we go back to the earlier days of work, passion and purpose were never real topics. Cultivating, growing, building, and providing were the twines that bound work to make it worthwhile.
Maybe we try too hard, or we get too impatient. Our world is inundated with messages that make us anxious and feel behind. A shot of minimalism clears our focus. We need to clear the clutter and focus on our work life.
Time for a work shift.
As we enter Labor Day, we need a work shift to restore work’s reputation and its place in our life work.
Embrace work as a blessing.
Work is a blessing. Being able to provide blesses others who rely on us, from family to church to community. Work isn’t a necessary evil. Work is necessary to build a life we feel good about in what we give. Work is an input and output experience. What we put into our work pays life dividends on the other side. Our mission should be to feel good throughout the process as often as we can.
Let the pursuit of happiness happen outside of our job.
Maybe we expect work to be our happy place. Enjoying work creates a flow of work time. Creating instills a sense of joy, and time flies by. The rightful place of happiness comes from what we do with the fruits of our work. What experiences do we create in our homes and communities? Our happiness pursuit resides with our family and community. Our job is just one stanza in our happiness rhapsody.
Do the work by collaborating and avoiding politics.
Collaborating well is creating well. Diverse contributions enliven actions and results. Within any human interaction, politics knocks. We position to attempt to get what we want or what we think may be the best outcome. However, we encounter self-interested individuals who have lost sight of the greater mission of the team or organization. We need to be determined in working with and around self-centered individuals. No fun, but it’s a part of our work life.
To achieve the best collaboration takes a political minimalism. If we cannot eliminate politics in our interactions, then we need to minimize them. Clear the political clutter requires hard work and tough decisions. Good leaders embrace a healthy sense of minimalism and make the necessary changes.
Find people who seek common ground.
Common ground isn’t muddled ground. Common ground is where problems are solved, creating a better future. Finding people who what to be problem solvers and legacy builders are the people to surround yourself with. Remember, clear the political clutter. In our current world, this is more challenging. Good leaders foster an emerging middle. Great leaders find ways to continue to build social and economic achievements within their stakeholder community.
Leading as a Common Grounder™ is a generational responsibility.
Renew through nature.
Each month, if not more, get out on a trail. We need to smell the fresh air and soak in the beauty around us. We need to be mindful of the surrounding greatness – large and small. Nature inspires us beyond our human presence. Within this mindfulness, our soul renews, and our mindset resets.
Listen to self and others.
Besides listening to nature, we need to turn inward and listen. We hear what our internal voice is saying and then determine if it is worth more consideration or not. Many of our thoughts need to be released like a bird from a cage. In flight, the matter disappears. The thoughts that matter will brighten our outlook and keep us excited about the work we do. Let go of what doesn’t brighten and raise our outlook.
Let’s return work’s good name.
Good work creates progress, as it always has. Weighing down work with too many unnecessary expectations only holds us back. In the process, we weigh ourselves down, and our anxiety rises. Remember, work is a blessing that gives beyond ourselves and lifts work to its rightful place. Will challenges arise? Yes. Will bad people litter our path? Yes. What gets us through each is continuing to do the work we were meant to do.
No one said it would be easy, but no one worth their salt said stop making the effort to do your best work. Your best work inspires a family, a community, and generations to come.
Photo, all rights reserved, Jon Mertz.