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  • Writer's pictureBrett

5 Ways to Make Your Work Matter

Do you remember your first job? Technically my first job was delivering newspapers in Jr High. I made enough to buy baseball cards and Slushees at 7-11 but that was it.

My first real job was at Peter Piper pizza! (the owner of the chain was Tony and in all his commercials he said “C’mon over to Peter Piper Pizza” with a thick east coast accent).

When they interviewed me, we eventually got to how much they would pay per hour. This was along time ago, and the manager said “we pay $3.15 an hour but it goes up to $3.25 in 6 months. When can you start?” I didn’t understand what she meant so I 6 months!

So began my on again-off again relationship with work and jobs. At times it has been great others times not so much.

Everyone has dreamed of getting a job and found the work to be less then they imagined. Hopefully you have also had jobs that turned out to be better than expected.

If you are fully into your career you have probably seen many changes. Once it was about a paycheck. Next it became about benefits and flexibility. Working from home showed us there still something missing.

Now… "It's about meaning, and I'm not just going to work anymore just for a paycheck. I want to go do something that I really enjoy. Life is really short." At least until there is a recession and our “must haves” change.

What we want is to be like Michael Irvin, Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboys wide receiver. We want to be so passionate about our work and so convinced our work matters we don’t hold back. Irvin was known to practice so hard and so long he would become ill and vomit...only to start practicing again. He talks about where that came from.

One day when he was 13 Irvin he decided to ditch school. As punishment, his father brought him to work with him the next day. It was a 14-hour workday, 110-degree heat, with only 15-minute lunch break to eat sardines and crackers.

By the end of the day, “Irvin’s shirt was encrusted in sweat, dust, plaster, and mud. He went home and collapsed into bed, vowing to never skip school again. He kept that filthy shirt and brought it with him to hang on the wall of his dorm room at the University of Miami and later in his house in Dallas, a visual reminder of the way hard work looked and smelled. ’My dad was a 100-percenter,’ he said. ‘All work, every day.’” Irvin translated that experience into the work ethic that landed him in the NFL Hall of Fame.

Okay so maybe you don’t want to do contruction or play football but you do want to do work that has meaning beyond making money.

It may require you to change jobs, but it will definitely require you to adopt some version of these 5 ways to make your work matter.

Crush Apathy - Gallup, in its recently released State of the Global Workplace: 2022 report, found that, along with dissatisfaction, workers are experiencing staggering rates of disengagement and unhappiness. Sixty percent of people reported being emotionally detached at work and 19% as being miserable. Only 33% reported feeling engaged ­­— and that is even lower than 2020.

Clearly, even as employers in the Covid era have focused on the idea of “work-life balance,” including more work from home flexibility, increased time off policies, and shorter work weeks, worker disengagement and unhappiness has persisted and even grown. Workers are unhappy at home, unhappy at the office, unhappy working 30-hour work weeks and 60-hour work weeks.

You must find passion in your work. If you absolutely cannot, then you need to find work where you can be passionate. It won’t come with better pay, better hours, and more flexibility. The only way to crush apathy is to care. More on this comes with #2.

Insist on Contributing - Psychologists find that passions are often developed, not discovered. In a study of entrepreneurs, the more effort they put into their startups, the more their enthusiasm about their businesses climbed each week. Their passion grew as they gained momentum and mastery. Interest doesn’t always lead to effort and skill; sometimes it follows them.

You develop passion by learning and problem solving (in other words by rejecting disengagement). When you contribute something at work you feel better about work and about yourself. I love this quote

"Self-esteem in your work is a progression, it often goes something like this: Phase 1: I’m not important Phase 2: I’m important Phase 3: I want to contribute to something important."

Happiness at work is less a goal and more a by-product of contributing. It is ironic, if you aim to contribute, you will find happiness along the way.

Quit Killing It – a few years back it was common to hear some high achiever talk about their job and say they are “killing it” at work. Meaning either they were advancing quickly and making great money.

Everyone must work through what is healthy when it comes to their own ambition, but that is not the killing it I am referring to. I am referring to the presence you bring with you and spread to your work place.

Even unreligious people recognize their presence matters. In his book, Bezonomics: How Amazon Is Changing Our Lives and What the World's Best Companies Are Learning from It, Brian Dumaine writes, At Amazon, Jeff Bezos believes that the number of hours a person works a week isn’t the real issue. What makes a difference is whether the work gives someone energy or saps it.

I know that if I am energized at work,—that makes me better at home, Likewise, if I’m happy at home it makes me a better employee and a better boss. Jeff Bezos

Some people come into a meeting and they add energy to a meeting. Others come in and the whole meeting just deflates, they kill it with their negative approach and sour disposition. You have to decide which kind of person you’re going to be. Be the one who quits killing things.

Put Some Respect on Their Name – Unless you have no relationships in your life, you represent someone when you work. No matter your intentions your work life is a representation of who you are and who you represent. Are you married? You represent your spouse at work. Have kids or parents…you represent them at your work.

Are you a follower of Jesus. See where this is going? You represent Jesus in your work. To work this way takes a deep recognition of God’s presence at the workplace.

Like many people, I’ve had jobs that I couldn’t stand. One summer I sorted mail, all day, every day. It was terrible. Some jobs make it difficult to offer high-quality work. But if you remember that part of your work is representing Jesus, God will work through your life.

We don’t bring just our skills work; we bring our very selves. We don’t work only to be productive. Our presence can be a valuable gift to our workplace when we represent Jesus well and put respect on His name so others can learn to respect Him too.

Go Crazy on PurposeAlert: scary statistic coming!! According to Gallup Polls, less then 50% of employees trust the company they work for to treat them well or look out for them. About the same number of employees report they are disengaged and sleepwalk through their day with little to no passion or energy.

I know those aren’t too surprising. We have already dealt with some of those issues. Here is the scary part. 51% of people get a large sense of their identity from their job.

So…the majority of people don’t trust their employers and are disengaged from work but more than half find their identity from their work. Huh??

Here is what is scary, people don’t trust and don’t find value in their work saying it has no purpose. Then many of those same people are finding their identity in large part from their job. I am no psychologist but if a person’s identity is heavily influenced from their job where they don’t trust and don’t engage it is a recipe for people to take on an identity of being apathetic and anxious. Does this sound familiar?

You need to find purpose in your work, go crazy with purpose! If you absolutely cannot find meaning and purpose in what you are doing, start looking for a different job.

In recent message we talked about a simple truth when it comes to your work. Work for someone who is for you. This comes straight from the book of Colossians.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

When the purpose of your work is to serve Christ, it changes everything. You make your work matter by doing your work in a way that matters. Working with all your heart becomes an offering to God. Christ is for you, He is on your side and He cares about your work.


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