Our Connection to Work

Staying in Touch
October 27, 2021
Our Connections with Authors/Books
November 10, 2021

Our Connection to Work

This post is part of a series exploring how our various relationships affect our resilience. Check out other posts in the series: Resilience in Relationship, Connecting to Our Past Selves, Casual Connections, Connecting with Nature, Genetic Connections, Family of Origin, Chosen Family, Connecting with the Infinite, and Staying in Touch.

For some, meaningful work is found in their paid job.  For others, the deepest meaning is in the work they do without pay.  Life is great when we can combine the work we enjoy or find meaningful with the way we earn a living.  Work increases resilience when it deepens connections, increases efficacy, allows us to grow and learn, or makes a positive impact.  

What is your work?  Those activities that take time and effort.  The range of work in an adult life is huge: raising children, landscaping, cashiering, writing, picking up trash, counseling, sewing.  There is value in accomplishing tasks, getting stuff done.  When you consider your work, is it drudgery? Or is work where you find meaning and purpose?  For many people the answer lies somewhere in between.  

How does work increase our resilience?  We tend to challenge ourselves.  Once we know how to crochet a potholder, a baby blanket is the next step.  After that perhaps moving on to a sweater or try using different kinds of yarn.  Each time you try a harder step, there are new things to learn and frustrations to overcome.  These increase skills, build confidence, and teach patience. 

The process of work isn’t always enjoyable.  In fact, there comes a point in many projects when you are struggling, feel fatigued, or just want it to be over.  Pushing through those barriers is often where you make gains.  You find yourself stronger than you thought. You get the help you need or you design a better way to do it.  Work teaches us that we can do hard things. 

Connecting with Others

Work can increase connection with others.  Picking up trash in your community can be done on your own.  If you are doing a river cleanup, you really need a team.  As your projects increase in complexity, you find others doing the same work who can share expertise or ideas.  These connections may turn into those relationships needed to weather a storm.  Who have you met through work? 

Building Self-efficacy

As you work on new things you learn new skills, building your sense of self-efficacy.  This is the feeling that “I can do this.  I am competent.”  Every new kind of work requires a new set of skills:  helping a child calm down, adjusting a machine so it works efficiently, using the right cleaner on the right surface.  Over time these become second nature, and you don’t realize how much you know until you try to explain it to someone else.  All of these promote a sense of competence.  What are your sets of competence? 

Making a Difference

Work allows us to make a difference in some small way.  Global warming is huge.  Making a grocery bag out of plarn (yarn made by cutting up plastic bags) takes a lot of plastic bags out of the trash heap and creates an alternate bag to use at the store.  Making 10 of these multiplies our efforts.  Telling others about it and teaching people how to do this keeps makes a difference.  What aspects of your work make a difference in this world? 

Finding Meaning and Identity

Work can contribute to meaning and identity.  Existential questions like “Why do I exist?”  “Who am I?” may be partially answered with work. “I am a brick layer” can also be “I create beautiful spaces for people to gather.”  I met someone who designed car headlights and tail lights.  His goal was to combine safety with elegance.  He enjoyed the process of working with the rest of the design team to make an object of beauty and functionality.    His intellect, sense of beauty, ingenuity, and communication strategies were used for every project.  He enjoyed his work immensely and delighted in seeing it out there on the road.

What are the ways you work at this time in your life?  What is your connection to that work?  How does it add to, or disrupt your resilience?  I would love to hear your thoughts.   

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Laura A. Gaines