When I go to work do I leave my heart at home?

by Catherine Fenwick ã 2000

How many people work in a place where love and kindness is encouraged? How many people come to work and leave their heart at home? Workers and workplaces have taken a beating in the last several years and it has affected how we feel about our work and how we get along with each other. Changes in the global economy, workplace restructuring / downsizing / right-sizing / re-engineering have left many of us reeling. So much is happening so fast. I donít know anyone who hasnít been affected. How are people coping with all of this?

I had an interesting discussion last week with some people about how work is not as satisfying as it once was. One person said that unfortunately, "work is nothing but a means to an end. We have bills to pay and we need to eat." Another said, " Iím looking out for myself and canít really think about how others are doing."

Unfortunately, for many of us work is an empty grind that lacks spirit. Lance Secretan, in his book Reclaiming Higher Ground, reports that 80 - 90% of workers in North America are dissatisfied with their work. Thirty to 40% say they hate having to get up and go to work. I am astounded by these results. To have a fulfilling life we need meaningful activity (this includes paid and unpaid work). We need people around us who care, and we need to have some fun. Like soul food and soul music, we must have soul in our work. We need work that has passion and joy.

A joyless, dispirited workplace leads to collective depression. Perhaps this is why so many of us are in denial about the seriousness of events that are taking place on our earth, from stock market fluctuations to environmental destruction. Work without spirit is cynical, pessimistic, commercial, consumer-oriented, competitive, ego-centred, self-serving, and often demands that we leave our values outside the door. Work with spirit is joyful, courageous, energizing, playful, honoring of the work of others, helpful, compassionate, healing, and does not compromise personal values.

People who are desperately looking for work are discouraged and frustrated. Too many of those who have jobs say they are very dissatisfied. They say they are overworked and under appreciated. Far too many have lost their passion and joy. Fear and uncertainty have replaced trust and hope. Dispirited striving for more stuff and fearful clinging to what we have has affected our confidence, our morale, and our ability to care about each other.

Why canít we see what is wrong with this picture and figure out a way that all who are looking for meaningful work can find it and those who are working 60 Ė 90 hours a week get to spend some time in their communities and with their families? Researchers and writers such as Bruce OíHara (Working Harder Isnít Working), Matthew Fox ( The Reinvention of Work), and Jeremy Rifkin (The End of Work), have made many recommendations such as; a shorter work week, more equitable distribution of wealth, job sharing, flexible work time, and more paid community work. These would certainly help to bring spirit to our work. Individually, we can start by saying "Yes" to a balanced life and "No" to unreasonable, unhealthy, dispirited ways of working.

A spirit filled workplace is psychologically compatible with peopleís needs for security, safety, belonging and community. Itís important that we take stock of our lives, take charge, get some balance, and create spaces that inspire our soul. Letís look for sanctuary in our values and beliefs, in the loving caring people around us, in creativity and service to others. Letís find sanctuary in meaningful work. Letís begin to create these special places for ourselves.

A sanctuary is a refuge, a place of safety. It can be a condition of serenity, inspiration and personal growth. Sanctuaries are places and spaces that allow us to fully experience and honor our feelings. They create a positive, encouraging, environment which inspires and motivates us. This is food for the spirit.

It is possible to create sanctuaries in our work place. We can create inspired and inspiring work for ourselves. We need to expand the meaning of the word. Work is so much more than "a job." Good work, as defined by E.F. Schumacher in his book, Good Work, is filled with spirit and easily spills over into community. Good work is creative, energizing and healing.

Create sanctuaries for yourself at your job and outside of your job. Perhaps you are yearning for some creative expression, such as music, dance, photography, painting, writing, needle point, or wood working. Perhaps you could volunteer some time to community service. Lots of organizations and people could use your talents and gifts of time. Oh yes, good work is so much more than a job! When you are doing good work you wouldnít dream of leaving your heart at home!

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