Work is increasingly something that we define ourselves by. What we do acts as a façade and the office is often a place to be someone different.
We like to keep our work separate from our private life, separate places and friends, a different persona.
Let’s be clear; your work or your career the stuff you fill your whole day with, is just a construct, an invention, something that we create and perpetuate to keep us busy and provide us with an identity. Work is one of our most powerful social norms.
The evolution of work is quite interesting when you zoom out and look at it on an evolutionary scale. There were always jobs to be done: hunting, cleaning, looking after children, making fires, building shelter and all that. Stuff that we had to do in order to survive. When we started to trade, swapping something we had for something that someone else wanted things began to change. Soon we worked out that if we didn’t have anything material to trade with we could exchange our time and labour in return for items of use and before long, for money.
All these behaviours were a product of reinforcement. Trading behaviour got you something you wanted or helped you avoid something you didn’t want.
Nowadays our every day priorities are never as base as survival. We don’t have to work to stay alive. As well as providing the tokens we trade for food, clothing, shelter our jobs fulfil our human need to keep busy and belong and allow us to gather the luxury goods that make our life more comfortable.
The reinforcement we receive from our ‘work’ behaviours has shifted from pure survival to material wants. Some people amass wealth and power through their actions; work is a status symbol as well as a suppressive control tool.
Work was something you were instructed to do and base your whole life around. You were asked by your parents and teachers “what do you want to be when you grow up?” at parties, and at conferences your peers ask “what is it you do?”.
Work in many ways prevents us from being who we really are or from being what we want to be. We turn up, day in day out to the same place, an environment that prompts and supports the same behaviours month on month. Our routines are scarily repetitive and predictable. We are prisoners of our daily repertoires until the day we have to retire, lost and shocked that we wasted so much time on something that gave us so little. This is what happens to work if our time is without purposeful design.
Life doesn’t have to be like this; we can see work differently. We can find purpose, change direction, if we choose to we can see work for what it is and start to make it something to enjoy.
Let’s choose to make work ‘work’ for us rather than something that controls and limits our potential.