Can You Find Joy in Work?

Bill Abbate

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Since work is inevitable for most of us, why not find ways to enjoy it! Some will ask, can anyone really enjoy working? Others of us will answer with a resounding YES! Have we found a secret? ABSOLUTELY!

While we may have days we wish we didn't have to work, we will still say yes because we have found the secret of understanding the many advantages working creates in our lives.

A large part of life consists of working. The current average age at retirement is 64. That means most of us will work more than four decades before retiring. Think about that for a moment. More than 40 years of working! But how working shows up in our lives varies to a large degree.

For some of us, it can be working for the man, working for ourselves, working when we have to, or working as little as we can, among many other possibilities. Some will enjoy their work while others will hate it, while most will be in between those extremes.

"Work is the true elixir of life. The busiest man is the happiest man." Theodore Martin (1816-1909)

The advantages and benefits of work

By deepening your understanding of what work brings into your life, you too can learn to enjoy it. A few of those advantages and benefits include:

  • Earning an income to provide security for your family, including a roof over your head, food on the table, health insurance, and other benefits
  • Establishing an identity beyond your name
  • Finding and developing a sense of meaning and purpose that make life worthwhile
  • Challenges and opportunities to learn and grow
  • Development of life skills
  • Cultivating social and interpersonal skills
  • Developing new and polishing existing work skills
  • Building relationships that can help you in life
  • Learning how to interact with others at a better/deeper level
  • Valuable feedback to help you grow and mature
  • Feeling valued, honored, and successful
  • Enhancing your sense of belonging
  • Greater happiness and joy in life
  • Allowing you to save for the future and retire relatively carefree
  • Improving your physical and mental health
  • Creating a sense of pride and confidence
  • Providing ample opportunities for achievement
  • Gaining understanding and wisdom
  • Helping to achieve independence
  • Gaining and deepening your experience

What else would you add to this list?

"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)

Finding joy in your work

As mentioned, the secret to finding joy in your word is to deepen your understanding of what it does for you in life. This deepening of your understanding can bring an abiding appreciation that will create joy.

"There can be no joy in living without joy in work." Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

How can you find this understanding? Before answering that question, ask yourself, "How do I find anything in life?"

By asking the right questions, you can uncover great treasure. First, let's do a little self-discovery. Perhaps you have experienced times of joy in your work. What was it like? How did it feel? If you have not experienced any joy at work, use your imagination and think about what joy would look like and how you would be in it.

Now let's start digging by using a simple three-step process. Ask yourself the following sets of questions when you have time to answer them thoughtfully. You do not want to rush through them. We rush too often in life and look at what that does for us!

Step 1 - What does it look like?

Ask yourself:

  • What does joy in my work look like?
  • Where do I look?
  • How do I act and behave?
  • What am I doing?

Write or record your answers to each of the above questions. You are now ready to begin creating.

Step 2 - What can I do to create it?

Ask yourself:

  • What do I find pleasure in doing?
  • How can I develop a great attitude about my work?
  • What can I do to help others find value in their work?
  • How can I create the most value for the company in what I do?

The final step in this process is to take action.

Step 3 - What will I commit to take action on?

Ask yourself:

  • What can I do to ensure my attitude is positive and healthy?
  • What one action can I do now that will make my next workday better?
  • What else can I do to find pleasure in my work?
  • How can I strengthen my commitment to do what is needed?
  • Who can I enlist to help me stay accountable?

A real-life example

I found myself in the position of almost hating my work for a time. When we sold our company to a much larger company, I was unhappy with their changes. To say I was frustrated is an understatement.

Fortunately, I had been on the acquisition side of business for years and saw the same frustration in companies we had purchased. Because of this experience and my age, I knew to stay calm and bide my time. One evening while speaking with Jane, my wife, it dawned on me I had one of two choices. I could adapt or leave. At this point in my life, I decided leaving would not be wise.

Because of the reality of the situation, I now had a choice between two paths. I could fight them, creating havoc and ill will, or I could work with them, which would require a serious adjustment in my attitude. It was at this time I started asking myself what I really wanted. Of course, I wanted to be valued and create value, as I always had before we sold the company.

I then started asking myself similar questions to those in Step 1 above. What Would make me happy with the work I was doing? How would I act differently?

I knew the work I enjoyed as I had been doing it for some time, but I needed to find pleasure in it again. This is where the questions in Step 2 came into play. I began thinking about what I could do differently and found it was not what I was doing, but who I was being! I had allowed my attitude to sour, and I needed to return to who I was before we were purchased.

It was then I knew what I had to do. This led me to the questions in Step 3 about taking action. I needed to return to helping others find value in their work through working with them and encouraging them, and I needed to do the same work on myself. I knew how to create real value for the company and needed to work on doing so again. Immediately!

In short order, I became a changed person on the job. Those who worked for and with me noticed it right away. Before long, those at the corporate HQ also noticed the change. I was fortunate Jane was able to help me work through this time. I also needed accountability, with which she helped me.

In the end, everything worked out better than I would have expected. The change that occurred happened entirely in me and in nothing the company did. It was in my mind, my attitude, and the things I chose to do. I discovered I did not have to change my work or job to be happy. I only needed to change myself!

Final words

When you know what you want and how to create it, the only thing stopping you will be you. You can create joy in your work regardless of what anyone else says or does if you so choose. This includes working for a difficult boss or in a "lousy" place. It is up to you. No one else can do it for you. Only you can make your mind up, change your mindset, adjust your attitude, and find joy in anything, including work.

If you want to learn to enjoy your work and greatly enhance your value as an employee, go back through the list of advantages and benefits. Study each until you develop a real appreciation for it. The change in you and the results you produce can be profound. Why not give it a try?

If you are the praying type of person, why not take advantage of the following wisdom in your career and life:

"Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened." Jesus Christ (~7-4BC - ~30-33 AD)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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