I have to confess I’m confused and a little bit suspicious of two big themes running through the way our society talks about work these days.
On the one hand, there’s the whole idea of following your bliss. The hero of early 20th century business literature might have been the shoeshine boy who built an empire, but today’s role model is the high-powered executive who gets laid off and finds true fulfillment and a great quality of life through making artisanal ketchup.
O.K., I exaggerate, but you know what I’m talking about. We’re constantly told to find our passion and make it happen, just like in “Flashdance,” while the truth is – even without leg warmers – that’s not always so easy to do.
Then, on the other hand, there’s this attitude that work is supposed to be a grind, and if you’re not stewing away in your cubicle or slaving away in your lonely office in a darkened building, you’re not working.
The second approach sounds a lot like my world, even if it’s not actually a sustainable practice.
So which is it? Are we supposed to love our work or hate it?
I actually think the “hating it” vibe is more dominant. It explains all those ugly office buildings. It explains the very concept of cubicles and the music you hear while on hold. It explains the guilty feeling nibbling away at you if you find yourself having fun while working.
Does that ever happen to you? Like if you do some reading for work outside on a beautiful summer day and you’re totally focused and totally productive, but you feel you’re getting away with something?
Well, it happens to me, and I think it’s because somehow I acquired this notion that having fun at work is cheating.
Of course, thinking that you’re going to be able to have a life of all fun, all the time is unrealistic. Even if you’re working at something you absolutely love there will still be tedious moments, if not unpleasant days. Or weeks.
Maybe the real damage these two strains of thought do is urge us to think that work is one thing or the other – a living hell or heaven on earth.
In reality, it’s probably always a little of both. A more healthy perspective might be to take the good with the bad, while trying to find ways to sweeten the mix as much as you can.
But there’s one thing I’ll always look for – engagement. I can handle all kinds of discomfort if I’m caught up in the cause.
What about you?
Are you following your bliss or trying to minimize your pain?
by Danielle Dresden