“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” – Theodore Roosevelt
The past few posts in this space (here and here) have spent some time on the idea of priorities and making sure we’re focused on stuff that’s really important. Our time and energy are limited, so we need to focus on what’s really critical to our businesses.
But there’s a difference between ‘critical’ and ‘worth doing’. You can look at the role you play in your organization, and the key issues your business is facing and figure out what’s critical to the success of your organization. But what about you?
How do you feel about the work you’re doing? I don’t mean to ask if it’s valuable or if you’re earning your paycheck or if it’s financially adequate. I mean, how does the work you do make you feel? Sometimes in our organizations we don’t want to ask that because it sounds a little too intangible, maybe makes us feel uncomfortable because heaven forbid we talk about our feelings at work.
But you’re going to be engaged in your career and your work for 40 years – maybe quite a bit more these days. It’s not enough to just be busy. It’s not enough to just cross things off the to-do list, or to improve profitability in your business, or grow X% per year, or etc.
Does the work you’re doing truly engage you? Do you really believe that what you’re doing matters in the world, even if it might seem like it’s just your corner of the planet? When your work goes well, do you really feel like you’ve brought value to other people, or that you’ve improved people’s lives in some way?
Nobody ever lies on their death bed and says, “Boy, I wish I’d spent more time doing stuff that was pretty meaningless to me.” So think about what you’re doing with your life professionally. Do you feel good about it? If you spent your entire career doing what you’re doing, would you get to the end of your life and feel like you’d been successful (and I’m not talking about $$). If you can’t answer “yes”, then is it time to do something different?
It’s easy to fall into a comfortable routine in our careers. And perhaps the comfortable routine is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing with your life. But what if it’s not? Don’t spend your career gradually drifting off to sleep. Wake up and get back in the game. Make sure you can look back in 50 years and say, “Now that was worth it!”