Path © Mark Dorf
We live in a world where we take matters into our own hands. We have high expectations of the tools, experiences, and associations we have in our daily lives. The internet has opened our psyches and changed our behavior by providing greater choice and increasing information.
It is a time of plenty. But it is also incredibly time consuming (and often confusing). We seek out things methodically and choose them intentionally. We curate, comb, and scan because we live in a world where everything is potentially laden with meaning which reflects something about us. We’re always trying to be the best we can be. We’re trying to get the most out of every moment.
We drink smoothies and juices not merely to satiate us, but also to manage and achieve health, or at least to create the illusion of it. We go to yoga or run five miles a day, not only to train and shape our bodies, but also to care for our emotional and mental needs. We use iPhones to work, connect with the world, meditate, do our shopping, track our health, and so much more.
Our expectations are high. We have greater ownership over our lives because the world we live in isn’t black and white. There is immense variation possible. It is up to us to make the most of it, to cash in.
Work is not any different.
In the past, work ordered and stabilized our lives, keeping us on track to be the man or woman, husband, wife, mother, father we were expected to be. It was the system and structure we used to trade our labor for our pay, in order to live our lives.
Now, the typical life path has been challenged and changed. Our identities are not so stable anymore and work is not merely a means to a financial end. In fact, we do a great deal of our living at work.
We seek out jobs that express something about ourselves but also engage and stimulate us. Yet, work doesn’t provide our identity. It isn’t in the hottest compensation package.
Rather, we seek to use our work to express who we are. Work is subjective and expressionist. It’s a practice we have to repeat, and a forum we find meaning in, with, and through. It is not simply a paycheck, performance review, gantt chart, or swanky standing desk. We deserve more than that; we are more than that.
It is time to demand more.
We must be as intentional about the design of our work—from the small interactions to the large moments—as we are about the choices we make outside of it. Work isn’t just about getting that stripe on our LinkedIn profile, that year at that hot little startup, or even that decade at the Blue Chip behemoth. Work is a practice of scaling our deep interests, pursuing our lifelong quest for meaning and self-actualization. Let’s get real.
Our collective awareness has grown to realize we must labor without compromising our livelihood. We must give greater attention to, and be more active in, determining how we labor.
Work should not be where we go to restrain the curious, inquisitive, imaginative child inside. It should not be the social engagement that replaces learning and development. It should not be the opposite of play.
Work is the single greatest opportunity we have, for greater satisfaction, for fulfillment, learning, discovery, growth, exploration, connection, and change throughout our lives.
In a world where everything means more—because there is more meaning to be had and made everywhere, and there are greater depths to explore—work must become more. It is time we live our lives. It is time to grow our lives through work.
It is time to change the Nature of Work.
Thanks to Nathan Snyder for his edits and contributions to this piece.