fall in love all over again (with your work)

09/09/2010

by carolyn mathews

“While not everyone can do what they love for a living, most can love what they do,” says Dewitt Jones, National Geographic photographer and keynote speaker. Coming from a person who travels the world and sees extraordinary people and places, this sounds like a no-brainer. Of course he would fit into both categories!  Yet, I challenge you to listen to this man speak of the people he has met in his professional travels, near and far. Those who truly left an impression on him, he explains, were those who loved what they did, no matter what it was.

In Jones’ film, For the Love of It, he highlights various people in his life, including a cattle farmer in Hawaii’, and shares how it is that these people love their work. What is it that allows people, whose work is sometimes difficult and demanding or seemingly (to an outsider) mundane or boring, to love the work they do? Jones suggests these people all: honor their passion, make a contribution to those around them, and express gratitude.

All three of these concepts are underlying tenets of positive psychology. The concept of working to one’s strengths is a way of honoring passion. Jones refers to passion as “energy.” I would like to take this one step forward and suggest that the energy he refers to is likely borne of using one’s intrinsic strengths – or character strengths. By using that which comes most naturally to us, we are energized and able to experience passion for what we do.

Making a contribution to those around us is another tenet found throughout positive psychology literature. Martin Seligman, one of the founders of the positive psychology movement, says that when we experience a sense of connection to the greater whole, we have a meaningful life. Michael Frisch, PhD, a psychologist and researcher from Baylor University suggests contributing to the greater good is a crucial element of living a quality life. Amy Wrzesniewski (faculty at Yale School of Management) and her colleagues state that one way to re-craft a job is to find deeper meaning in the connectedness of one’s role to the organization’s values and objectives. This provides an opportunity to contribute to colleagues’ work experience.

The last concept Jones mentions is to express gratitude. Many studies have been done regarding this idea throughout positive psychology. Whether, as Frisch suggests, you follow his “Thank Everyone for Everything” tenet or keep a gratitude journal, gratitude works. It contributes to our overall well-being in the workplace and beyond. When our overall “being” is well, we are more likely to find things in our work that we enjoy.

There will certainly be work days that are more challenging than others, but clients have told me these concepts work for them. One client, who must compile quarterly earnings for his company finds himself closed away in his office for very long hours, completing a pressured and exacting task he doesn’t necessarily enjoy. Yet, he knows that his work guides the company’s sales efforts and contributes to the livelihood of others and overall, he loves what he does. Another client has had difficulties with a co-worker, particularly in meetings with others. Part of what she has done to resolve this situation is to experience gratitude about other areas of her work; this helps to shore her up to make it through the tense meetings. A client who thought she wanted to leave the industry she’d worked in for years. Through coaching, she was able to recognize that this work actually engaged her strengths. She loved what she did, but not her particular situation. By recognizing the use of her personal strengths in her work, she was able to continue her work with the same company until another position opened that was ideal for her.

Thus, the challenge may not be in getting through trying days or moments, but in loving what we do. If you make it a practice to honor your passion, contribute to those around you, and express gratitude, you may find yourself keeping the difficult moments or people in perspective so you can love what you do!

PS: You can hear more inspirational messages and see some amazing photography from Dewitt Jones at his website.

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