I may love Monday now, but I didn’t always burst out of bed with enthusiasm to get my workweek started. In fact, there was a time when I’d be settling in for some fun or relaxation on the weekend and the thought of Monday stopped me cold. Dread draped over me. My muscles tensed up. I’d become moody. I’d get depressed. Or develop a headache. Or a stomachache. Or both. Not a picture of joy, health or success.
I lived that way longer than I should have. The money was good. My colleagues were great. The work was challenging. But the company was experiencing growing pains and management challenges, and there was a lot of tension in the air. I hadn’t clearly thought through what the next step on my career path should be so I lingered, and my stress mounted.
My father had ingrained in me “Ya gotta have a plan,” and yet, I had no plan. I didn’t know what a plan would look like. I probably updated my resume and intended to shoot it around to a few people, but that was it.
It’s several years later and yada yada yada I’m a career transformation coach helping exactly the kind of individual I was then. I wish I could have swooped in and saved the younger, unhappy me. But, what I experienced then and in every single job, project and volunteer stint I’ve tackled, and what I’ve learned from every degree and certification I’ve earned, have paved the way so beautifully for the work I do now.
Partly incidental and partly strategic, my experience and education have been so beneficial to understanding the challenges, fears, confusion, stagnation and often misguided perceptions would-be job-changers or career-transformers face. Not knowing where to turn back then and seeing so many people over the years disengaged with their work, in the wrong job, in the wrong field, under-employed, over-employed, stressed or going through the motions directly inspired my new line of work.
As we celebrate Labor Day, I always take some time for reflection about the concept of work, the status of my own work situation, and how important work is to a functioning society. Founded in the 1880s to honor the efforts of labor unions, Labor Day has come to be a three-day weekend with loads of great sales that marks the unofficial end of summer, the start of football season, and a day off on Monday for many. It also gives (some, not all) workers a day of rest, and it’s designed to celebrate the contribution workers make to our communities and our economy.
Some of my Labor Day reflections are mere thoughts and contemplation. I think about the work I’m doing now and its stark contrast to the stress I felt years ago. I imagine what I want my work to look like a year from now. I consider how easy it is to take for granted the work done by others. And how there are some of us who are incredibly fortunate to love what we do. How some work to make a lot of money and how others live paycheck to paycheck to cover the bills and feed their family. How others get work out of the way so they can enjoy their free time with friends, socializing and relaxing. How yet others commit themselves to work that puts their own lives in peril or to missions that are paramount, arduous or unpleasant, and that absolutely consume them.
Some of us are workaholics. Perfectionists. Some strive continually. Some people are constantly taking webinars, reading books and blogs and learning new skills or sharpening old ones because they love learning or because they really want to advance in their career or make a big impact on the world. Not everyone has an incredible work ethic, nor does everyone have a healthy balance between their personal and professional lives.
What IS our responsibility? What do we owe ourselves, our parents, our family, our community, our teachers, our coworkers, our community, our country, our planet? Is it okay that not everyone works equally as hard or is equally as motivated to succeed or to make the world a better place? How much should we concern ourselves with the work and attitudes of others about work vs focusing on our own efforts and sensibilities? Why does it all matter?
What we do know is that there is much work to be done. What we also know is that when people enjoy what they do and there’s a solid match between their skills and the job requirements; when their personal mission, values and goals align with those of their employer; when there are clear expectations, integrity, respect, fairness and open communication among all parties involved, people thrive. Businesses thrive. Families and communities thrive. The ripple effect does its thing …
When people push themselves to tackle new challenges, to push past their fears, to take smart risks, to find meaning in their work and to commit to doing their very best, life starts to sparkle.
We just celebrated the 54th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Throughout his too-short time as a leader, MLK uttered so many wonderful quotes about work, purpose and service, and as we celebrate our country’s 133rd Labor Day, I’ll end this post with two of my favorites:
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
He also said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
Happy Labor Day, and thank you for the work you do.
P.S. If your Labor Day reflection includes consideration of a job or career change, get your copy of “Reimagine Monday,” a free checklist featuring the 24 outcomes you want to experience for maximum transformation success.