Do you know why you actually work? Is it to earn money in the first place or is there a more important reason behind that? If you are lucky enough to be born as a representative of the Millennial generation , you are likely looking for some sort of “higher purpose” in the work you do. I have been observing this search appearing in my own, as well as other people’s working motivations. But why do we even value one job over another? And how do we make the choice of which is the most suitable one for us?
How consciously do we choose our job or university degree that will supposedly open the doors for us to a professional career? I mean, are we even aware of what we actually want from it? To talk from my experience, I have to say that for a long time I was not too aware. Not as aware as I would like to be, at least. I just picked a degree which sounded kind of cool and simply went for it, perceiving it as some kind of continuation of high school. I felt like this was the way to go, because everyone I knew was doing it (going to university) and because this was what my parents wanted me to do.
And of course – this was a part of an inevitable process. I chose my degree randomly to learn that randomness doesn’t always serve you. Then, during my studies, I was looking for whatever part-time jobs, just to be able to feel that I am at least a bit more independent from my parents. I always wanted to work during my university years, and it seemed like this was an important step I needed to take in order to call myself a grown-up. So I took any jobs that came my way – selling matches, distributing leaflets, working in a chocolate store. These were my first, semi-conscious experiments with work as a means to feel more worthy.
I remember how proud I was to have my whole days planned from early morning till evening hours. It made me feel good about myself – knowing that I could do so much in a day and that I was not wasting my time. I felt like I was learning something new every day, earning money, getting on with my life, knowing what I was doing. Not necessarily knowing what I wanted, but certainly knowing what I was doing. My life was full of various “doings” at that time.
My typical day during that period (last year of university) would be as follows. From 8 to 11:30am I would take two classes at uni. Then get myself to work in a travel agency on the other edge of the city, be there at noon – or often a bit later, due to traffic and not enough time to commute. Work until 6pm. Then eat something fast and still go to yoga or language class. Come back home around 9 or 10pm. Go to sleep because I finally felt like I deserved some rest.
For a couple of months I was fuelled to work in this kind of mode, believing that this never-ending series of tasks would grant me the feeling of worthiness, being good enough, hardworking, good citizen, good daughter – whatever. I must say it did the job for quite a while – back at that level of consciousness, I often felt what I could call proud of myself. Or: satisfied with my life. Until a point when… my long-distance relationship started falling apart. And this showed me that the confirmation of my own value that I got from work was not a lasting one. It was not a very real one, either. It was just serving as a cover for some things about myself that I didn’t want to see. And it was much easier not to see them when I felt I had “a lot to do”.
Later on, I discovered that there were more people doing this, not just me: using work as a tool to redirect their attention from what is going on inside of them towards something that could make them feel better about themselves. And this “something” is often job, work, studies or another series of tasks which, if accomplished, can make us feel like we are better than we would be without them. I often hear people saying things like: It’s actually good that I have a lot of work now. I will not have the time to think about THAT. “That” usually means difficult feeling that a person is struggling with. And at the same time – a feeling that they are doing their best to avoid.
But who am I to say that people shouldn’t escape their difficult emotions by immersing themselves in work? Just because I read a book called The Presence Process, which talks about the importance of honouring your feelings and paying attention to them in the first place, I might believe that I know better. Why is she/he doing this? – I ask in my head. – Why don’t they understand that these emotions are emerging to communicate something? How do I tell them to redirect their focus away from the endless tasks they think they must complete and towards their feelings?!
These are the moments when I discover my own arrogance. Because here I am, trying to carve out a blog post about conscious work, just because I established this goal for myself. Write twice a week about the topic of “conscious work” for a month. Then move on to another one – “travel”. Then continue for another 10 months. This is your job now, Marta. Don’t be lazy, this is what you decided, this is what you have to do – continue your work, because this is your work now. Come on, you wanna be a writer, really? Then you have to write, you know. Prove it to yourself and others. Show the world that you are worthy.
PS. It seems tricky to step out of a vicious circle. But if you realized that you are spinning in one – that’s quite a big step you made already.