Virtually none if us have sat down and worked out what we really want from life: in our twenties (probably thirties for the next generation!) we hop on a treadmill of a job we don’t love and tie ourselves down with a mortgage. We live a life without Purpose. Living a life of Purpose is the best way of avoiding mental health problems.
There are a lot of alarming statistics when it comes to mental health, but one of the scariest is that over 70% of people in the UK hate or dislike their job. Given that we spend anywhere between 65 and 80% of our waking life at work, that’s worrying. If we spend way over half our time doing something we dislike or hate, then how do we expect to be happy?
50 years ago work wasn’t so stressful, everybody left for home at 5.00 and everyone took an hour off for lunch; many companies had a tea lady that brought a trolley round at break time. We genuinely had the time and mental capacity to do something purposeful with our genuinely free time at home. Today’s working atmosphere is somewhat different and with smart phones, most of us are “still at work” answering e-mails (and more) at the weekend.
Today, more than ever it is critical for your mental health to do work you love and yet so many people don’t.
Because we are hard-wired for community and find hormonal rewards from being with people and sharing our experiences, our work should have a purpose. This purpose ideally is about helping others, making a difference in people’s lives, making a difference in the world.
OK now you’re thinking: “not another pink and fluffy spiritual lecture”! But actually, as spiritual as it sounds, it is true biologically. We are also hard-wired for altruism…helping others: we get a boost of oxytocin (the bonding hormone that Mums and newborn babies get to create bonding) when we do somebody a good turn, when we look after them.
When you think about it, it makes sense: how did little human cavemen and women survive amongst all of the savage dinosaurs and beasts. Yes, we might have been cleverer than them, but the important thing is we clubbed together and co-operated. We are hard-wired to do it.
Well the good news is that you don’t have to train as a therapist to help others: although it’s the most rewarding career I can think of! In many ways it can be your attitude to your work. Let me give you a couple of examples from past clients.
- Mary runs a coffee shop in our local town: she’s full of the joys of life, hugely welcoming and chatty and makes the most amazing latte! She knows how tough life is from bitter personal experience and that we need to grab every opportunity to feel good when we can. She is doing far more than making you a cup of coffee. In fact, I’ve seen her sit down for 15 minutes with a new customer, a complete stranger, who was clearly struggling emotionally. That man went out with a smile on his face quarter of an hour later. She made a difference in that man’s life by just being herself. Oh and by the way, did that man come back again…of course he did: he’s now a regular…so there was even a clear business benefit. Mary probably wouldn’t express what she does as a life’s purpose, but that’s what it is!
- Peter runs a cleaning company and many of his employees suffer from low self esteem when they join as they believe they aren’t good enough to do any other job and that society doesn’t value them for doing such a menial job. One of the keys in Peter’s success is that he can show his staff how invaluable their work is to the running of the client company or school. It isn’t the most pleasant of jobs, but cleaning the carpet in a classroom where a child’s been sick is a really important part of the running of the school and by extension of the children’s education. This attitude also means that not only do they enjoy their work, but they find it easier to interact with the teachers and the students and can become part of the fabric of the school
As a student I used to work on the dustcarts during the summer: that can be really unpleasant! But those of you old enough to remember the dustmen’s strike in the seventies will know what a difference to the world regular bin collection makes.
So two questions for you:
- How can you see your job as more about serving people?
- Is there something else you could be doing that makes a difference in the world?
At The Mark Newey Method, we help you identify both of these, helping you to create a map of meaning for your life moving forward and empower you to go and do it.