Posts Tagged ‘meaning’

Is your work meaningful?

Life’s too short to work on things that don’t make a difference. Sure, you’ve got to earn a living, but what kind of living is it if all you’re doing is paying for food and a mortgage?  How do others benefit from your work? How does the planet benefit from your work? How is the world a better place because of your work?  How are you a better person because of your work?

When you’re done with your career, what will you say about it? Did you work at a job because you were afraid to leave? Did you stay because of loss aversion? Did you block yourself from another opportunity because of a lack of confidence? Or, did you stay in the right place for the right reasons?

If there’s no discomfort, there’s no growth, even if you’re super good at what you do. Discomfort is the tell-tale sign the work is new. And without newness, you’re simply turning the crank.  It may be a profitable crank, but it’s the same old crank, none the less.  If you’ve turned the crank for the last five years, what excitement can come from turning it a sixth? Even if you’re earning a great living, is it really all that great?

Maybe work isn’t supposed to be a source of meaning. I accept that. But, a life without meaning – that’s not for me. If not from work, do you have a source of meaning? Do you have something that makes you feel whole? Do you have something that causes you to pole vault out of bed?  Sure, you provide for your family, but it’s also important to provide meaning for yourself. It’s not sustainable to provide for others at your own expense.

Your work may have meaning, but you may be moving too quickly to notice. Stop, take a breath and close your eyes. Visualize the people you work with. Do they make you smile? Do you remember doing something with them that brought you joy? How about doing something for them – any happiness there? How about when you visualize your customers? Do you they appreciate what you do for them? Do you appreciate their appreciation? Even if there’s no meaning in the work, there can be great meaning from doing it with people that matter.

Running away from a job won’t solve anything; but wandering toward something meaningful can make a big difference. Before you make a change, look for meaning in what you have. Challenge yourself every day to say something positive to someone you care about and do something nice for someone you don’t know all that well.  Try it for a month, or even a week.

Who knows, you may find meaning that was hiding just under the surface. Or, you may even create something special for yourself and the special people around you.

Image credit – Greg

Retreating From Activity To Progress

Cabin RetreatEvery day is a meeting-to-meeting sprint with no time for some of the favorite fundamentals like the bathroom and food.  Though crazy, it’s the norm and no longer considered crazy.   But it is crazy.  When you’re too busy to answer emails that’s one thing, but when you’re too busy to realize answering email isn’t progress, that’s a problem.

Our in-boxes are full; our plates are full; our calendars are full. But our souls are empty.

You’re clear on what must get done over the next 48 hours, but the pace is too fast to know why the work is important in the first place. (One of the fastest way to complete a task is to deem it unimportant and don’t do it – all of the done with none of the work.) But it’s worse.  It’s too fast to do the work no one is asking you to do, and it’s too fast to do the work you were born to do.

We have confused activity with progress; and with all the activity, we’ve forgotten what it feels like to think.  We need a retreat.

The perfect retreat eliminates distractions and gives people time to think.  After a nice Sunday flight into Boston, it’s a calm two hour coach ride to rural New Hampshire. (Done right, a coach is soothing.)  After pickup it’s a fifteen minute drive to a remote trail head.  With a pack on your back, it’s a five minute walk to a big, remote cabin.  No cell service, no power, no interruptions.

As you enter the cabin, you unload all your electronics into bin (Yes, your smart phone goes in the bin.) which is locked away for the remainder of the retreat.  You race to get the best bunk, drop your gear, and share a meal with your fellow over achievers. (Y es, the non-disclosures are signed so you can actually talk to each other.)

The first day is all about recognizing the discomfort that comes with no distractions and your natural tendency to create distraction to sooth your discomfort.  The objective is to help you remember what if feels like to have more than 30 seconds of uninterrupted time.  Then, once you remember, it’s time to actually think.

There are no video conferencing capabilities (or electricity) in the cabin, so all work is done the old-fashioned way – face-to-face.  The objective is to help you remember the depth, complexity, and meaning that come when working with actual faces.  Yes, there’s good facilitated discussion, but the topics aren’t as important as remembering how to share and trust.

There is ritualistic work of cooking, cleaning, splitting the wood, and stoking the fire.  The objective is to remember what it feels like to connect the mind to the body and to connect with others.  And, there’s a group hike every day to remember what it feels like to be grounded in the natural world.  (Sometimes we forget the business world is actually part of the natural world.)

After the rituals and hikes have done their magic, the right discussions start to emerge, and deep contemplation dances with deep conversation.  Though there’s a formal agenda, no matter.  With the group’s awaking, the right agenda emerges.

At the end of the retreat, there’s immense sadness.  This is a sign of importance and deep learning.  And after the hugs and tears, there’s a spontaneous commitment to do it next year.  With eyes dried, it’s off the bus station and then to the airport.

You don’t have to wait for the perfect retreat to start your journey.  Start your practice by carving out an hour a day and set a recurring meeting with yourself and turn off your email. And start by asking yourself why.  Those two tricks will set you on your way.

And if you’re interested in a real retreat, let me know.

Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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