It’s so easy to rant and rave about work, and complain about the endless stress it causes us. Almost too easy. The annoying co-workers! The never-ending exhaustion! The crazy boss! But really, what gives with all the negativity?
Are things really as bad as we make them out to be? Well…probably not. “The problem is that we don’t think it’s possible to design work that we love, so we sometimes get bratty about giving it our all,” says Laurie Gerber, executive and senior coach at Handel Group Life Coaching. “What I have found with countless clients is that designing a great career and giving your whole self to it is one of the greatest joys in life. Also, giving 110%, though we fear and avoid it, actually feels great! But, truly going for it means we have to talk down the internal voices of the ‘brat’ and the ‘chicken’ (fear).”
Think about it — if you enjoy what you do (or find enjoyment in bits and pieces of it, anyway) and can Jedi mind trick yourself into perceiving your work and your role there more positively, how could that not be a good thing? But first, to break it down, there are a few basic things you get out of a day’s work, beyond just the work you produce. “There are definitely positive aspects to work,” says Susan Weinschenk, PhD, founder and principal at Weinschenk Institute in Edgar, Wisconsin, and author of How to Get People to Do Stuff. “First, there’s having a sense of self. If you love your work, then work is like play. If you can approach your work creatively, then work is an outlet for creativity, which keeps you positive and engaged in life. Second, work is often social — a lot of our friends are people we know from work. People often struggle psychologically when they leave a job or retire — because work keeps us engaged in life.”
There’s also the idea of being needed and contributing to something outside of your personal goals. “Feeling a sense of purpose is perhaps the most important thing in life,” says Gerber. “You don’t have to get this feeling from your job or career, but it’s your best bet (outside of raising kids, which is also a job) since, you will spend over 90,000 hours at it in your lifetime.”
So, how can your 9-to-5 (or whenever you get out of there) job be better for you than just being horizontal on a beach 24/7? “Anytime you have a vision, and you take the right actions to fulfill it, you build confidence all around,” explains Gerber. “And, when you give 110% in your workday and show yourself what you can do, you add value and build trust in yourself and your worth.” Plus, work is sort of in our DNA: “We are born with a desire for mastery,” says Weinschenk. “We like learning new things and getting better at what we do — it motivates us.”
Gerber agrees: “Any area of life you give attention to will get better, but career, love, and health seem to be THE most important — and career is the most time-consuming of the three,” she says. “When you are happy doing what you love to do, your health improves and your relationships improve because you have a foundation of self-respect. Any addiction will have unhealthy side effects — workaholism is no exception — but that shouldn’t be confused with committing yourself fully to what you do for work.”