Work. We all do it. It’s what occupies the majority of our waking hours. And it’s killing us.
Now, before you go running off to the doctor for an anti-work prescription, hold on. Let me explain why I think your work may be killing you and what you can do about it.
First let me explain that I’m a big fan of work. I’m doing it right now! I don’t think that the ideal life is one in which we don’t have to work or where we look for ways to minimize our work.
Our work, if done effectively, should bring us purpose and meaning. It’s not the only thing that does that, but it makes a large and, I would suggest, overwhelming contribution in bringing purpose and meaning into our lives. The fact that it may not be doing that for you right now is why it may be killing you.
Let me outline four reasons why I think your work may be killing you and what you can do to get healthy again.
The number one reason some of you are being killed by your work is that it’s not your work. It’s someone else’s. Someone else suggested that this career path you’re on would be good for you. You took it and ran with it. A few years out—and it’s killing you. Who was this person? And what was their motive in making that suggestion? Most likely it was someone you looked up to, some authority figure or role model you admired at the time. Parents, teachers, influencers all come to mind.
The more important question is, what was their motivation? Parents, for example, are notorious for putting security and safety for their children above all else, so their suggestions may err on the conservative side. Few parents push their kids to take risks, try new things, venture into unchartered waters. This could be the reason you feel a lack of passion for your work. It doesn’t ignite that spark within that motivates and inspires you to do your best. It’s just safe and comfortable and provides a good living. And it’s killing you. It’s killing your energy, passion, creativity, and identity. It’s not your work.
Another reason your work may be killing you could be that you’re not currently doing what you set out to do. You got sidetracked along the way. I find this reason common among middle-managers. You liked the industry you started in. Saw yourself contributing to some meaningful projects that aligned with your passions. Wanted to fit in with your colleagues. But things were different once you were inside. But you went with the flow, accepted some promotions, and now find yourself on a completely different track. Now you’re managing people, writing reports, and maintaining quotas. You got sidetracked.
Another reason your work may be killing you is a quite natural one: You’ve changed, grown. That thing that sparked your passion at 24 doesn’t quite do it for you at 34. It sounded good at the time and maybe you were a bit idealistic, but now that you’ve learned a few things about yourself, you’re not sure it’s a good fit. Everyone says hang in there, but it’s killing you.
There’s a fourth reason your work may be killing you, and it has nothing to do with your industry but everything to do with your career. Your work is killing you because every day you have this nagging thought in the back of your head that you could do it better on your own. This corporate thing is sucking the life out of you. You spend more time in meetings and less time in creative. You spend more time in the back office and less time communicating with clients about your innovative ideas. Your entrepreneurial spirit is trapped in a corporate body, and it’s killing you. You could do it better on your own, and you know it.
Since work is the one thing we spend most of our waking hours doing, it should be something that brings meaning, purpose, and fulfillment to our lives. It should strengthen our confidence that we have something tremendous to contribute to this world. It should satisfy us right down to our soul.
We’re living at a time when career change has never been easier. The resources and tools we have available to make those changes are literally at our fingertips. It does take some effort, though. It also takes some faith–faith in yourself, in your abilities, your gifts, and your talents.
More than that, it takes vision. Vision to see what life will look like if you were doing the work you are called to do. Vision that sees you working with passion and purpose. Vision that pictures you doing work that has meaning.
Work doesn’t have to kill you. You can make changes in your career so that you thrive in the work you were designed to do.