The Work of Our Life; The Life of Our Work

If you think of work as only the means to earning money, you’re missing work at its best — like work with meaning, work with joy, work that stretches your talents, engages your body and spirit as well as your mind, and sends you home inspired by deeper connections with other humans and the earth.  And if you think of work as something that ends when the official workday ends or when you retire, you’re not considering how rich the work of our lives is.

Just what is the work of our lives?

As babies our basic work includes learning to live in this world.  To crawl and eventually to toddle, then finally to walk and run.  To learn to communicate with others and to express ourselves.

Each year, the work of our lives grows bigger: to discover who we are and what matters most to us.  To find our way in this amazing universe.  To become self-responsible.  To balance conflicting needs and desires within ourselves (wanting to feel and be healthy vs. cravings for French fries and malted milkshakes) and with others (the need for self-expression versus the rights of others for privacy).  To learn how to live with gusto even when life is hard; eventually, how to die with grace, dignity, and as much consciousness as we can muster.

When life works, we bring the work of our life into our paid work, thus bringing the best of ourselves into every aspect of work, and vice versa.  Thus, as we learn to deal with issues around a boss, for instance, we learn to deal with similar issues in our lives.  As we discover more about who we are in a marriage or friendship, we are better able to have meaningful and effective workplace relationships.

Whoever we are, wherever we are, we always have the work of learning, growing, serving, and stretching.  Whether you’re being paid as a teacher of mathematics or patiently helping a grandchild learn how to drive safely, you’re engaged in the wondrous act of not only helping to pass on skills, but more importantly to help your student develop as a caring, competent person in all of life.

New Series:  LifeworkStories

In this blog, I have featured stories of many people who bring the best of their spirit and everyday life to work.  I’ll continue to do so.  Beginning today, I’m launching  regular stories from people who bring spirit to the work of everyday life, with a touching post by Tom Ratcliffe. For ease of finding these stories as their numbers grow, they will be tagged as “Worklife stories.”  Your submissions are welcome; send an e-mail to visionpat at aol [dot] com and put “Worklife Stories” in  the subject line.  (E-mails without this subject line or “no subject” may not be opened.)  As always, your comments are welcome.  Just click on the comments link below.

Very best wishes,

Pat McHenry Sullivan

Copyright 2010 by Pat McHenry Sullivan