What the hell does “I have to go to work” mean?

ATT00015 pexels-photo-510391Who among us has walked around on a Sunday night with that “pit in our stomach” feeling? Last weekend I was having this very conversation with two close friends; both professionals, one a lawyer and the other a schoolteacher. They both expressed to me they were feeling a little blue and continued to explain they were “dreading” going to work the next day. The whole conversation centered on why they were feeling this way on a Sunday night and why the anticipation of starting a new workweek stressed out so many people. Maybe it’s how our culture talks about and defines “work” today. Does any of this sound familiar…

· Are you still at “work”?

· How many hours did you “work” this week?

· Unfortunately, I must “work” this weekend.

· I have been working too hard lately.

You can add to the list!

One definition even defines work as “an exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil.”

As our conversation continued, we shifted from the when and how, to the “why” of work. That’s when the conversation became more meaningful allowing us to look at “work” in a different way. In their book, The Why of Work, David and Wendy Ulrich refer to the “Why “ as the human search for meaning that finds its way to our office and factories; a search that motivates, inspires, and defines us. George Washington University professor Neal Chalofsky also writes in his book , Meaningful Workplaces, that learning is the most critical human function to reaching your purpose and potential. Learning new skills and applying them in some way allows you to raise the bar for yourself and others.

As my friends and I concluded our conversation, we agreed to adopt a better way of thinking about work; more as a meaning maker rather than as a laborer. I suggested they capture, declare and write down how their work provides meaning and refer to it on the Sunday nights when they were feeling that “pit” in their stomach.

This past Sunday, I also took time to reflect on the “why” of my work, and in doing so, found myself really looking forward to the week. I was coming off an intense facilitation of an executive retreat, one where the group was wrestling with the future of the company. The session I facilitated provided them with an opportunity to shape the future of their organization; building a new kind of company where they help saves lives and attract the best people to join and stay with the company. It was a privilege to be there working with these executives. I learned, I was inspired, and I was making a difference! It reinforced “why” I love the “work” I do.

Every time I learn something that makes me a better coach and leader it brings more meaning and purpose to my “work”, so much so, I don’t think about it as “work” anymore, but as a chance to learn and grow and be part of something that is truly making a positive difference in peoples lives.

Whether you are on an assembly line or working in a corner office, try to remember, going to “work” really does make a difference in someone’s life; it does have meaning. Write down your “why” and continue to shape it as you grow and learn. Only then can you know “what the hell going to work means!”