Loving your working life sounds like a great aspiration, but it can also feel distant and vague, like something you’ll achieve when you look back over your career. I am a huge fan of perspective taking, but there are big implications to your well-being when you wait to love your working life (and then only enjoy it from the rear-view mirror). Let’s take a practical look at what falling in love with your work means.
To start, the word love seems out of place in the context of work and career. If we look at the definition of love, it is “an intense feeling of deep affection that nourishes your well-being.” Given that many of us spend more than 40 hours a week preparing for, thinking about, commuting to, being at, and doing work, it needs to nourish us. Your work needs to support life; yours, your loved ones and your community.
With a word like “love”, it’s easy to romanticize what our working life should look like, and often this is a version of perfection. No stress, easy commute, pressure-free. Check back in with the definition of love, there is no promise of perfection. Love is complicated and, just as in relationships, something you don’t do once, but over and over again, recommitting to it each day. You fall in love with your work one moment at a time, and it is this deep affection for what you do that sustains you through the mess that is competing demands and stress.
Can you remember the first moment you were able to find joy in something you did? It was likely at school where you discovered you not only enjoyed doing something, but were good at it. This is the moment where love at work begins, because that one moment becomes motivation to continue to curiously pursue more of what you enjoyed, taking the next step to explore what a subject was all about, and what you could do with it.
Then comes the point in time when you transferred your interest and acumen to the workplace, and here there were moments where you realized what a difference your work could make to both others and yourself. You may have been recognized, possibly even valued, by a client, employer or team mate. Or you connected the dots yourself and were hooked on that feeling of having something meaningful in your life that only you could do.
Falling in love with your work is not about promotions, raises, bonuses or awards. While those things are nice, It’s the moments that give you energy to keep going, to get out of bed and pursue the work you enjoy doing in ways only you can. The meaning comes from understanding that you are connected to both yourself, and something bigger than yourself through your work. What moments give you that spark of understanding? What moments sustain you, allowing you to love your working life?