“If you haven’t connected what you do to what brings meaning to your life, you are not tapping into your great reservoir of power and inspiration.” ~ Shirzad Chamine
I was reading this week while on vacation about a series of studies that all reached the same conclusion; people view their employment position in one of three ways – a job, a career or a calling. In one particular study conducted on hospital cleaners, one group of workers experienced their work as just a job and described what they do as boring and meaningless. Another group saw what they do as a calling and described their work as meaningful and engaging. They approached their work in more creative ways. They interacted more with patients, nurses and visitors. They took pride in making patients and hospital staffs feel better. They actively imbued their seemingly menial job with meaning.
Similarly, another study on a group of administrative assistants with nearly identical jobs, close to one third saw the work as just a job, another third saw it as a career and another third as a calling. Which group would you put yourself in?
What this means is that you can help yourself, an others, imbue the same exact work with far greater meaning, without having to change the work itself. You can change how you do your work and the meaning you derive from it, simply by changing how you feel about what you do.
As you read this be thinking, “But I manage self storage! It’s not like it’s a life-changing field”. I beg to differ. For many customers, it may very well be a life-altering event. Let’s face it, people don’t rent self storage for no reason. They rent self storage because they are going through some sort of turmoil in their lives. They are being transferred, selling a home, relocating to find work, have been evicted, are going through a divorce, just got married, started a business, or just want to make space in the garage to park the new car they are planning to buy. In any case, they are there to solve a problem and you are there to offer a solution. If you offer a solution with more caring, concern and helpfulness than any of your competitors, they will probably become your customer.
It doesn’t matter if you are managing self storage or flipping burgers or serving your country – see it as a calling and you will not only do a better job of it, but you will find your life much less stressful and much more fulfilling. I love the quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. – “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep the streets as Michelangelo painted or as Beethoven composed music, or as Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep the streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth shall pause and say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
If you find little or no meaning in what you do, don’t look at the job, look at yourself. There is an old story about two travelers moving to a new town. Each stopped at a service station at the edge of town. The firs traveler asked the attendant, “What kind of people are in this town?” The old man responded with a question of his own, “What kind of people were in the town where you came from?” The traveler responded, they were wonderful, friendly people.” The old man told the traveler he would find the same kind of people here. The second traveler stopped in a few minutes later and asked the same question. The old man repeated his question. The traveler responded, “Where I came from the people were miserable and very unfriendly.” The old man responded with, “I’m afraid you will find the people here much the same.” The point being, we find what we look for. If you are looking for a job, that’s what you will find. If you are looking for a career, that too is what you will find. But if you are looking for a calling, you must first look inside yourself and when you find the meaning in what you do, you will find the calling you are looking for.
What are you looking for?
- Craftsmanship (sethgodin.typepad.com)