The Joy of Work

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Several months ago, I was offered a very exciting CEO position with a fast-growth company in a glamorous industry. At least it seemed so at the time, compared to my current job. We spent a few weeks negotiating, but right before anyone signed anything, the whole deal fell apart because some "accounting irregularities" were uncovered. Oops. It sent the business into a tailspin for a while and eventually the owners sold out to an investor group who, of course, wanted to choose their own CEO.

Thank God the mess came out of the woodwork before I committed to it. But afterwards, I was left with this empty feeling, wondering how I was going to go back to my real, now very boring by comparison, existing job (the one that was still paying me) with any enthusiasm. By comparison, my current job seemed entirely mundane and beneath my capabilities. Maybe, I thought, the job offer was a nudge from God pushing me forward, a sign for me to move on, to start looking for another position somewhere else—a hint that I had outlived the useful life of the current company and position I was in. God does that sometimes, doesn't he?

I kept ruminating about it, getting more and more disappointed and disgusted with my current station. Yes, I'm sure of it. God has Bigger Plans For Me! I decided that I must consult with my Leadership Coach and Mentor, Dr. Payne, about this. I desperately needed a business advisor to help me make some important career decisions.

Dr. Payne is a British chap with a great accent and terrific sense of humor—kind of like Monty Python with a briefcase. And that refined British accent somehow makes him sound very, very smart and commanding, like I should do exactly as he says, no matter what, right now! It turns out that Dr. Payne also has a passion for helping working stiffs like me find more spiritual meaning in our careers and work life.

I met with Dr. Payne the next week at my office. I immediately unloaded my great burden on him, working myself into a lather about my untapped, underutilized, unacknowledged leadership potential that was completely going to waste. He let me rant for a while, and then he gave me some advice:

"As we get older and approach midlife, it becomes more important to find joy in what we are doing rather than what we can achieve. Do you agree?

"Sure thing, Doc."

(What I was really thinking: "I don't want joy. I want a major career upgrade! I want the stock grants and the IPO in two years and those business trips to Europe and the Caribbean!")

Dr. Payne definitely had the advantage here because he is about 15 years older than I am, so he might know something that I haven't thought about yet. He talked about how things that were important to us when we are young do not bring us the same fulfillment as we start getting older. In order to stay happy and productive, we need to shift the way we look at our lives. He continued.

"Because when we do things that bring us joy, it will ultimately bring joy to others. And then God opens up his pathways for us and you will begin to experience his abundance. I have no doubt you will find your way to discover God's purpose for your career. But right now I want you to spend the next few weeks paying very close attention to the things that bring you joy as you go through your workday. Write it down for me."

Okay, joy isn't actually so bad. I'm sure I could benefit from identifying the activities that bring me joy, since I've been so cynical and grumpy at work lately. In fact, to be honest, I haven't really thought about joy in my life much at all. Joy is good. Good idea.

Over the next few weeks, I kept track of the things that brought me joy at work. Surprisingly, this was not difficult. It turns out there were many things about my job that were enjoyable. And keeping track of it kind of helped me to gravitate more towards those activities I found joy in. For me, they were things like working on high-level strategy projects, initiating major change, mentoring other guys in their jobs. When I stopped to pay attention, there were actually a lot of interesting things going on with my job that I truly enjoyed. I think I had been so focused on what I didn't have, or what I thought I should have, that I was missing the opportunity to make the most of what was right in front of me. And maybe Dr. Payne was right. Maybe if I just keep focusing on the things I'm good at, the things I enjoy, then that tremendous new career opportunity would show up at the right time. I decided I was going to have a better attitude about my current job.

Isn't it funny: after just one meeting with Dr. Payne, I realized that I have been so focused on my career and the next big advancement, the next promotion, the next ego-boost, that I had forgotten how to think about life in more simple terms: fun, gratitude, relaxation, joy.

Dare we say that Dr. Payne was sent by God?