Transforming Work: Into Satisfaction and Personal Empowerment

If what awaits you tomorrow is nothing more than a boring and frustrating day spent marking your time ’til clocking out, you’re in good company. Finding someone who really enjoys their job these days isn’t easy.

Job burnout seems contagious. Though not a disease, it has the potential to substantially impact our health especially in consideration of the fact that a significant portion of our awake existence is spent on the job.

Typically considered a necessary element of survival, work for many has evolved into no more than a means to an end – a trade-off for supporting families and purchasing things we’re convinced are needed to live the American dream. Not surprisingly, work is often equated with sacrifice, as two-worker families have less time to spend together.

The bottom line – work can become one of the greatest sources of stress in our lives. This isn’t surprising. If your heart isn’t in what you’re doing, your workday is certain to start on a negative note. Actually it begins with a biology that’s clearly established even before you approach the company parking lot.

To prove this point, a summary article published in the New England Journal of Medicine (January 15, 1998) forewarns the real consequences of job dissatisfaction. Blood levels of cortisol, a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, are significantly elevated within one half hour of awakening in people who dislike their jobs. Potentially critical consequences include elevated blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar and even memory loss if the stress persists. Essentially those entering the workplace are biological catastrophes waiting to happen even before the real stress of the day ensues.

It’s also disheartening to note the overwhelming prevalence of middle-aged people marking their days to retirement. It’s difficult to imagine how disillusioning it must seem to spend so many years awaiting a day that begins by sleeping in.

Unfortunately many people simply maintain this posture as an inevitable fact of life. Yet what surprises me the most is not the countless reasons for job dissatisfaction, but rather the few insights that ever surface centered around personal meaning or empowerment derived from working.

Perhaps this is where we should focus our attention. Let’s take a few moments to answer a straight-forward question: How can we as individuals adopt a healthier perspective of work? Consider the following insights:

“Responsible work is an embodiment of love, and love is the only discipline that will serve in shaping the personality, the only discipline that makes the mind whole and constant for a lifetime of effort. There hovers about a true vocation that paradox of all significant self-knowledge – our capacity for finding ourselves by losing ourselves. We lose ourselves in our love of the task before us and, in that moment, we learn an identity that lives both within and beyond us.” – Theodore Roszak

The words, “love, discipline and personality” are keys to understanding and manifesting our work as a rewarding self-expression of who we are. When we truly love what we do, work evolves into a natural expression of fulfillment that’s challenging and satisfying at the same time.

The key however is establishing the right fit. Matching one’s personality to their work is paramount to success. Assuming we’re capable of disciplining ourselves to adapt to practically any task at hand, we often chose jobs for the wrong reasons. The problem actually begins when we expend our energy forcing the square peg into the round hole.

Consider the reserved, shy individual stressed by the prospect of selling or promoting a product, or the inquisitive individual who requires ongoing stimulation and is stifled by a repetitive task.

When our work suits who we really are, it evolves into a welcome discipline that nurtures us and provides far more than remuneration. As Roszak so appropriately stated, “we lose ourselves in the love of the task before us.” As a result, our horizons expand, our self-set boundaries disappear and our spirit soars. Our work becomes our identity.

Perhaps we can learn from Aboriginal societies in which a person’s name is derived from his/her vocation. One’s identity is cherished and honored by the community at large. “Food Gatherer,” “Hunter,” or “Mender,” hold positions of esteem while actual contributions ensure respect.

Extending such nomenclature to our society would justify new names like, “Bump on a Log,” “Negative Thinker,” and “Less-than-Enthusiastic.”
So stop complaining!

Whether you’re working in a toll booth or discovering the next breakthrough on the cancer frontier, know your work is important. It is the expression of who you are that can only be revealed when the job fit is right and you’re proud of what you do.

Learn to trust your inner voice, discover the work that makes you happy and develop a strategy for satisfaction and personal empowerment. Ultimately the life you could save may be your own. Your success is bound to be contagious – Mind Over Matter!

© 2000 Barry Bittman,
MD all rights reserved

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Written by Barry Bittman MD

Explore Wellness in 2021