What's work for?

personal development Feb 22, 2021
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Human beings are fascinating. 

We work. All living things seek and capture energy to produce or accomplish things. This, after all, is what distinguishes living things from inanimate ones.

But only humans endeavor as a means for building identity, forging meaning, and pursuing work's opposite, leisure. Isn't that interesting?

We employ our social nature, capacity for reason, and creative instinct to struggle and strive for sufficiency and safety. Then, as soon as we acquire enough, we get bored. What to do with this spare time? Explore and work new edges, of course! For our ancestors, this ennui sparked interest in and development of amusements and art.

For most of human history, we worked very little to gather the resources required to live. Human interaction was based on abundance, generosity, and cooperation. Work was done in service of cultivating leisure. Shared goals and labor created shared values and beliefs, which in turn fueled harmonious community and culture. Sounds like a pretty good deal, eh?

How is it that we now turn this leisure into work and work into a divisive battleground?

What compels us to fill downtime activities like social media or exercise with performance metrics we work toward? Even more curious, how did our worldviews about work switch from abundance to scarcity, generosity to greed, and cooperation to competition?

I don't have answers to these questions other than to respond with a more beautiful question, "Why are we settling for this state of affairs?"

What happens if we pause, zoom out, and ask, "What's work really for?"

If what we do defines who we are and what it all means, shouldn't we employ ourselves in endeavors that make things better? What happens if we engage in efforts done with and for others and lean into them with intention and integrity? Wouldn't that enhance everyone's prospects and prosperity? Maybe that's the real work? 

Scott Perry, Difference-Maker Coach at Creative on Purpose. 

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