Sunday, September 5, 2010

Revitalizing Labor

In 1894, Labor Day officially became a federal holiday with street parades to demonstrate to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community.

Besides activities that celebrate the economic and civil impact of the labor force, the nature of labor also carries less beneficial connotations.

The Biblical story suggests that after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God inflicted pain and suffering on bearing children, and on working hard to extract a living from the land. In this view, labor represents a curse or punishment.

Whether or not you accept the Bible, the relationship between labor and hardship has a long-standing history in the US collective unconscious.

When most people think about "work," they imagine some degree of toil, drudgery, unpleasant exertion, "earning a living," or a "grin and bear it" routine. These images testify to the pervasive societal expectation of suffering as part of life's labors.

In the context of the current economic crises, unprecedented unemployment, and high levels of job dissatisfaction, you need to feel some significant relief from these associations with pain and suffering.

Despite lay-offs, increased demands, less support, lower sales, decreased resources, global competition, and other new challenges, you can experience health and happiness in your workplace.

How can you feel re-energized and invigorated with these conditions?

To re-establish a refreshing and compelling foundation for your work, start by remembering your values. That is, consider this question:
  • What is important to you about the work you do?
You might identify security, money, friendships, benefits, teamwork, creative opportunities, intellectual stimulation, professionalism, cooperation, generating solutions, leadership role, customer service, and other factors as critical concerns in making your job or career choices.

Your values provide the crucial core of your paid as well as volunteer work responsibilities.

By identifying your values, you reconnect with something worthwhile and uplifting, the "heart" of your work. That's one way to reclaim a positive attitude.

You can find additional support for a renewed positive attitude by reflecting on these questions about the essential nature of your labors:
  • What is your purpose in work?
  • What are you working for?
Your desired outcomes and aspirations may involve such purposes as: providing for your family, supporting your parents, saving for college education, planning a vacation, building your business, creating a healthcare fund, developing a living legacy, making a difference, and more. In this process of clarification, you reveal a new way of seeing your work. You put your labor in a larger perspective, and no longer need to see your efforts as a burdensome obligation.

Rather, you can experience your work as a chosen responsibility. That is, you have consciously taken on this activity (e.g., work or anything else) for a specific purpose, and you do so freely without resentment. You take ownership for your choices. Now, with this transformational outlook, you have the space to introduce health, happiness, and even joy into your everyday work form of expression.

Finally, to help you embody these ideas in your work, nurture yourself with these practices:
  • Acknowledge that you aren't defined by what you do. Your Presence is much more than the sum of your actions.
  • Love what you do, even if you aren't doing what you love. Remember your core values and "big picture" purposes.
  • Engage you family, friends, and community in volunteer or other meaningful ways. Don't be limited by a workplace that provides insufficient opportunities for your full self-expression.
  • Bring a fresh, creative, vital you to work each day. Open yourself to discover possibilities for learning and growth wherever you can.
  • Experience yourself as resourceful, and play with new, inspired directions for your work.
May all your efforts be re-charged with joy!

Love and Peace,

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