It always amazes me how the work ethic varies from one individual to the next.
There are those who can devote their whole lives to a life of highly intensive work, filled with pressures and deadlines, economic weight and hundreds of individuals under their guidance.
Then there are those who can’t seem to hold down a job, and completely crack under any amount of stress. They may be defiant toward authority and lack motivation to complete any given task.
Of course there are those in between that graze among these two poles.
For most of my life, I was somewhere in between.
One of the first “real” jobs I had was working at a restaurant in New Jersey. It wasn’t exactly a chain, but it had multiple locations, I guess you could call it a franchise. And since it had multiple locations, it had to uphold a certain level of consistency among the restaurants. So if you went to the one in Ramsey, NJ on Friday and the other in Princeton, NJ on Monday, you would see the same menu and receive similar treatment from the staff. Over time, the clientele sees this as a place they could go to and feel at home. Sort of like when you go to McDonalds in Italy.
So we were given a whole protocol from how you would greet a customer, what to offer, what to “up-sell”, to how you would bring their dining experience to an end. It was robotic, unnatural and cheesy — all things I’m dreadfully terrible at. So I chose not to do it. But as luck would have it, I was one of the few people that got stuck with the surprise-disguise visit from Corporate and failed their standardized test miserably.
A similar situation happened at the lifeguarding job my sister got me, and it didn’t end after we split occupational ways.
To me, work always felt like 40 hours a week of prison that I was being sentenced to for the rest of my life.
But what I couldn’t understand was how I could be a good student and athlete, yet when it came to these jobs, I felt like the world was falling from underneath me and all I wanted to do was escape?
Going back to the scenario of where people fall along the work ethic spectrum, I don’t think its a matter of work ethic that makes you a “good or bad” employee, its whether the work you choose to do fits your unique self.
All of these jobs that I thought would be a good fit at the time were not because as soon as they required me to be something other than myself, I crumbled and I rebelled. I felt like a phony and a liar and I was unable to process it or feel proud of myself. As my Occupational Wellness suffered, so did the rest of my Wellness.
But here is where we run into a predicament. Our society and our government supports a certain type of employee and lifestyle, and is less than supportive for others. For most of us, if you want to receive affordable healthcare, a retirement plan and vacation time, something we refer to as “benefits” you’ll probably find yourself searching for a job that asks you to report to a 4-walled building, either sitting behind a desk and in front of a computer screen for 8 hours a day or scurrying around it taking care of a laundry list of tasks.
Some people are great at it, others just wish they were so they could reap the benefits.
Have you ever been on a really long vacation and said to yourself, I could do this forever? Well I'm sorry to say that it would not be in your best interest if you are seeking a full and meaningful life.
The reason for that, is your innate desire to feel a sense of purpose.
Not only do we need to work, deep down, we want to.
We all have the drive and motivation that will lead us to live profoundly successful lives.
But all too often we loose sight of our dreams because we are clouded by the pressures and people around us. We think we need to escape it, run away and all of our problems will be solved. Unfortunately, that is not the answer and what’s more devastating is that it leads to suffering.
I worked in at a desk job, that I convinced myself for many years, was fitting for my personality. I enjoyed bits and pieces, but I looked at the passing clock more than I didn't, and had more negative thoughts than positive ones.
It wasn’t until I did my first Yoga Teacher Training that I understood how slowly my work days passed, and it made me nervous that my life was passing before I could live it.
In yoga I was told that our lives should be filled with bliss, positivity and fulfillment. Yet forty hours of my week, which is a large chunk of a person’s life, was spent in a negative headspace.
Since I was not happy at work, every other dimension of my wellness suffered. I was physically exhausted, my mind was clouded with negativity, my relationships and social life was unfulfilling, my spirituality and sense of self was diminished, the gorgeous environment I chose to live in wasn’t being experienced, and I was questioning my intellect as I was not being challenged and living my highest potential.
When our occupation, the thing we do the majority of our waking hours is not in accordance with who we are, every other dimension of our wellness suffers, and we live a life we were not meant to live.
Every dimension of wellness leads us back to one immensely important, overarching theme, know who you are, take the time to discover and learn about yourself. And once you do so, follow your curiosity, and move in the direction of your passions.
"Don't worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don't even try." -- Jack Canfield, Author of Chicken Soup for the Soul
Take a moment, this week, to write down your goals. Whatever they are, get specific about them. Write them out in detail. Start to visualize yourself attaining those goals and how it feels now that you’ve reached them. What do your surroundings look like, smell like, and even taste like?
And now start to back peddle. What did it take for you to get to that position? Was there some hard work involved? Maybe there were days that you felt defeated and others where the smallest improvement felt like a victorious celebration. There may have been people who lifted you up and others that stood in your way. There may have been days, maybe weeks of rejection, followed by simple moments of blissful self acceptance.
In all of this mess, if you knew that it would ultimately lead you to your wildest dreams, would you still do it? And if your answer is yes, ask yourself this, what is one this you can do this week, today, to move in the direction of your goals? How can you overcome the fear that is standing in your way?
One small step leads to another, but it has to start somewhere. Start today.