Meet Dan and Claire. Dan hits the snooze button three times, slogs to work, and goes through the motions for yet another eight hours. Claire doesn’t need an alarm clock. She leaps from bed before sunrise and races to work with a new idea for one of her clients.
Why is it that some view work as a necessary drudgery and others see work as a way to make a vital contribution?
While certainly a difference in perspective, there’s something much deeper going on. When we believe our labor is pointless, work is nothing more than a means to an end. But when we’re mindful of how our work influences others, we consider it a worthwhile investment of our time and efforts.
In an interview on the EOFire podcast, speaker and best-selling author Michael Port shared his reverence for the stage. What would happen if we applied that same viewpoint to our own careers, no matter what line of work we’re in? Just as a speaker takes the stage in service of the audience, we take our own stage in service of our clients.
When we focus on the needs of the customer, client, or end user, our work honors others.
All Work Applies
It’s easy to think this concept doesn’t apply to us. We may feel our jobs aren’t important, but they are to someone. No matter if we assemble automobiles, provide janitorial services, or reconcile accounts, our efforts impact other people.
Even if we find ourselves in a job that drives us crazy, someone is hoping we keep them in mind as we toil. By focusing our thoughts on who will benefit, it not only makes the job more tolerable, it makes it meaningful.
Poet Khalil Gibran wrote, “Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.”
When Work is Drudgery
With the first appointment slot of the day, my husband and I sat in the chemotherapy lab waiting for the procedure to begin.
The technician laid supplies on a sterile metal tray nearby and said, “Missy will start your IV at 8:04.”
My husband and I glanced at one another with raised eyebrows. He asked, “Why 8:04?”
“8:04 is the latest Missy can get here before she gets in trouble with HR,” the technician smirked.
We laughed, surprised by her honesty.
The technician stopped at the doorway and turned back toward us. “I’m a 7:50 kind of girl.”
It was closer to 8:10 when Nurse Missy greeted us and started the IV. She didn’t talk much. Though polite, her face was stern and her gaze distant. We asked a lot of questions because she didn’t explain what to expect. I also noticed Missy didn’t check on her patients as often as other nurses.
In my mind, I questioned her ability and dedication to the patients assigned to her, especially to my loved one. Her co-worker’s comment certainly shaped my opinion that morning but I observed for myself she was less than engaged.
Administering chemotherapy may be a routine job for those who do it every day, but for patients, receiving chemo is a life-saving endeavor. Their bodies may respond well or react violently. Patients need a trusted guide to educate, extend compassion, and help them through the process.
Missy’s actions, showing up late and not being fully present, revealed she was not patient-focused. It even showed a lack of respect for those in her care, though I’m guessing she probably never thought of it that way.
Making a Contribution
Over the holidays, members of our local Toastmasters club gathered at a restaurant called Puckett’s for a special meeting. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a smile by the friendly server who would be taking care of our group for the evening.
She immediately jumped in and helped configure the tables in a way that best suited our needs. She asked about our agenda and worked carefully to take orders and deliver meals around our schedule. In between sessions, she topped off our drinks and provided exceptional service.
The server played a key role in the meeting’s success by intentionally focusing on what her customers needed. As a result, she made our gathering enjoyable for everyone.
Your work may not take place on a raised platform or in a chemotherapy lab, but you perform on a stage of some kind. It could be:
- in a boardroom making decisions that directly impact thousands,
- in a classroom teaching the next generation of bright-eyed, malleable students,
- in the cockpit flying passengers safely home, or
- on a farm harvesting vegetables that feed hundreds.
It’s so easy to dismiss work as nothing more than a way to make a living. It’s tempting to believe our labor doesn’t matter. But it does.
Our labor always touches others. Acknowledging that impact while performing our tasks is where we have the opportunity to make our finest contribution.
How will your contribution honor those you serve today?