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A Meaningful Life Means Having Meaningful Work

July 19, 2013 by  
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Last week I started talking about the importance of that one thing we all love to complain about but need so badly as well—Work! We don’t need it just for the money either!

In the book I brought up last week, “When All You Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough “, Harold Kushner lists  the many super benefits to working. He notes “that we work for meaning as much as for money. We work so that our days will not be empty of meaning … but the key to our happiness, to our being able to find pleasure in our work, is the sense that we are using our abilities, not wasting them, and that we are being appreciated for it. Whatever it is in your power to do, do it with all your might.”

Wow … there is real wisdom and truth in what he is saying and of course that’s a big reason we all should be involved in the kind of work that we have a real passion for, even if that kind of work doesn’t pay much. Kushner says “If we are lucky, we will find ourselves at a place in life where we can derive pleasure from our work. Some of us, if we are lucky, will see ourselves launched on new careers in mid-life which will give us that elusive feeling of pleasure”.

Kushner is a Rabbi and he loves what he does, even when the work he has to do involves a sad event. “In a strange way, I feel good when I am officiating at a funeral,” he says. “For years, I couldn’t understand that feeling. I thought there might be something perverse about me, to enjoy such moments. But I understand it now. At times like that, I feel alive and engaged. I know that I am not merely present but that I am making a difference.”

Harold Kushner, paraphrasing lines in Ecclesiastes in the bible, says “If you are not going to win a Nobel Prize for your work, if it is not going to make you rich and famous, it still can give meaning to your life if you take it seriously and do it with all your might”.

I am absolutely convinced that work is a powerful and wonderful thing for our lives and makes us feel so much better about everything. As the novelist Wallace Stegner said “More people than would probably admit it find in work the scaffolding that holds up their adult lives.”

So yes, after learning–or I should say re-learning–all this about work, I have begun to re-dedicate and re-motivate my life to the work I love to do. Of course, we all need a break and so I will keep playing and traveling but these will be part time activities, because let’s face it, you can’t realistically play tennis, work out, hike in the mountains, watch movies or even have sex for 8 to 10 hours a day but you can work that long! You can dump all of your boredom and find great fulfillment in your accomplishments with hard work. You can also meet more fascinating people, contribute to humanity and, as an added bonus, even make a bit more money along the way. That’s a win-win-win from every angle!

 

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