I’ve been having a lot of conversations about work with people I respect and admire lately. I just returned from the Colorado Capital Conference in Washington, D.C. last week, where I learned about and discussed the work of the U.S. Congress. I also talked with fellow Coloradans about their work, their lives, and the things they care about. It was an opportunity of a lifetime, not just because I was able to visit the floor of the senate and hear from our nation’s leaders, but also because I came away with a new faith in our system and trust in our Colorado congressional leaders to work together in a bipartisan manner for the good of our state.
When I returned, I had a great conversation with a neighbor and friend I greatly respect and look up to. She was feeling invigorated by a recent career change, and entering a time of great passion around her career as she approaches age 60. I recently made a big transition in my career this spring, and I found that we fed off each other’s energy in discussing our plans. When I walked away, I felt even more excitement about my work, and gratitude for the opportunities I have now to do work I love in HR, be in my community of Boulder, and interact with intelligent, caring people of integrity that share my commitment to making work better.
Sometimes I forget that not everyone shares my core belief that work brings meaning to life. In the past, our grandparents worked hard for the same company or organization for their entire careers, and were “rewarded” with a pension in retirement. Like many other working people my age, I joke about never retiring, because none of us will ever truly be able to afford it. But the real story is that the people I know who have deep passion for their work don’t ever want to stop working. The new “gig” economy is taking root just in time for us to envision our later working years in a way that fits with what we want and need for our changing lives.
As I examine what I truly want from my work, I realize that I yearn for more than just an exchange of brainpower for money. That, at its basic level, is what work is to most of us, and what it’s been to me at some points in my career. But if I have a choice, I want more. I want to do work that not only just helps people, but furthers an organization I respect and trust. I want to be part of something bigger than just me. At its best, work can feed the spirit and contribute to our feelings of worth, belonging and our place in the world. All work has value, and there is justified pride in a day’s work well done that is appreciated by and performed for an organization that treats its workers with respect, that is deserving of their trust.
Work can be more to all of us: more satisfying, more rewarding, and adding energy to our lives, not exhausting it.
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