“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.”
The statistics concerning work in America tell an interesting story. On one hand, we hate work. On the other hand, we can’t seem to get enough of it.
For the most part, Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs:
- 70% of employed Americans are disengaged from their work.
- 18% of workers are actively disengaged—meaning they aren’t just unhappy; they are busy acting out their unhappiness.
- 74% of employed workers would consider a new job opportunity if one was presented.
- The 4-Hour Workweek has spent 7 years on The New York Times bestseller list.
- Americans count down the years to retirement at age 65 and CNN defines early retirement as the ultimate “American Dream.”
Americans are not happy with their work and do not enjoy it. But we refuse to slow down and take any break from it:
- Compared with other industrialized nations, U.S. workers rank 1st in hours worked (1,800 hours annually).
- The typical American middle-income family works an average of 11 more hours a week in 2006 than it did in 1979.
- 53% of adults check work messages at least once a day over the weekend.
- Americans leave a half billion vacation days unused each year.
- We struggle to find even one day of rest each week.
These statistics paint an interesting picture of our love/hate relationship with work: We don’t like our jobs; but refuse to spend less time at them. Why is this the case?
Most likely there are a number of reasons. Sometimes, our legitimate financial needs require us to work long hours. Sometimes, our jobs require us to be on-call and available at a moment’s notice. Other times, our employers simply do not provide us that type of flexibility.
But I think there is something deeper going on here. After all, all of this is happening in one of the most productive and wealthiest nations in the history of the world. Why then, given our vast supply of opportunity, do we work such long hours in jobs we hate?
If we could discover the deeper reason for this discontent, we could find relief in both areas: both a greater appreciation for our work and more space for rest.
The real reason we have such a love/hate relationship with work in our society is because our motivation for it is all wrong. We do our work for the wrong reward.
Typically, we do our jobs simply for the purpose of earning a paycheck at the end of the day. Work is that thing we do through which we make money so we can do all the other things we really want to do.
But money as a means to fulfillment will always fall short. It will never fully satisfy the longings of our heart—in their own right, power and reputation and fame never satisfy either.
When money is the reward, we can never earn enough. We are always left desiring just a little bit more.
This is a problem with our modern understanding of work. If we are only doing it for the sake of the paycheck every two weeks, it will never be enough. We will always be left searching for more—putting in just a few more hours, skipping another day of vacation, heading back to the office on another Saturday morning.
Do we work because we love our jobs and find fulfillment in them? No. We do it because we believe the paycheck makes it all worthwhile—or at least, a little bit bigger paycheck will make it all worthwhile.
But it never does.
We were designed to work for something greater than money and possessions and property. (tweet that)
Instead, view work as contribution to others—this is the reward. Our work contributes to the good of society. It moves us forward. It makes us better as people. It enriches our lives.
Whether we are bagging groceries, delivering mail, sweeping streets, or managing others, we can view our hard work as an act of love to the people we serve.
And when we change our motivation, we discover work is not something to be avoided—it is meaningful.
Please don’t view your work as something to be endured or avoided. Don’t view it merely as a means to a paycheck. Change your focus. Develop a deeper appreciation for the contribution you are making (or find a job that will).
This will always result in a new love/love relationship.