Why Our Work and Life Must Be Aligned
Most of us go through our days doing our work while simultaneously imagining we are living another life.
People are now referring to it as a lack of engagement with our labours and speaking as if it is a new condition. But the problem is as old as time and certainly wasn’t just created by a millennial workforce.
The way we all sometimes make our lives bearable it to imagine how they could be lived another way. We are particularly good at this when the tasks at hand are not what we want to do. They may be too boring or too challenging. The end result is the same.
So we cure ourselves by drifting away mentally to imagine the life we would rather be leading. In some fuzzy fantasy, we see ourselves in other roles, taking command or walking away, jumping into the fray or simply jumping into the waves.
Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, in his fascinating book called Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life, explores our tendency to mentally create and hold onto various other lives and other selves different from the person we are and the life we are leading.
“There is nothing more obscure than the relationship between the lived and the unlived life,” he writes. “So we may need to think of ourselves as always living a double life, the one that we wish for and the one we practice; the one that never happens and the one that keeps happening.”
At the end of our lives, too many of us experience a sense of regret, a feeling that we have somehow “missed out” on the life we were meant to have.
Phillips calls it that “gap between what we want and what we can have, and that gap…is our link, our connection, to the world…This discord, this supposed mismatch, is the origin of our experience of missing out.”
If we are honest, we all go through these daydreams from time to time, in which we see ourselves doing something quite different. We are happier in our unlived lives. We are happy with ourselves and what we become in our imaginary world. We have no nasty bosses or unrealistic work schedules in the life that we imagine.
The problem for me is that we also have no reality.
So more and more I have been thinking about how important it is for all of us to find the means to somehow align the beautiful life we imagine living with the less perfect life we are living.
I think a major component in bridging the gap between the two lives is finding work that gives us purpose and adds value to our lives and the lives of others. When we are lost for hours in an invigorating project that stimulates our senses and brings out the very best of our grey matter, we are happy in a new way.
We have no time to visit from world to world, from life to life. Instead we are fully engaged in the life we are in, fascinated by the task at hand and intrigued by its possibilities.
Not everyone can achieve a state of presence and engagement in their work that banishes thoughts of that other life at least for a while each day. Not everyone can get to that point in life that when their work is done, they can say they gave it their all and that they have no regrets.
But we can all try. We can all take steps every day to move the life we want to live closer by aligning what we do with what we want to do. We cannot take the work component out of it, since sustaining ourselves economically is a reality for 99 percent of people on the planet.
But we can keep looking for ways to work, that align with that imaginary best self and gives us the freedom to dig deep, use our talents and skills, and end each day with satisfaction instead of a wistfulness for what could have been.
I am not suggesting that we close our minds to imagining ourselves in that other life from time to time. After all, that is how we find the road map to change and nurture ourselves and fulfill our dreams.
But we should consciously take that journey in our leisure when we have the time to enjoy it, not have it thrust upon us many times during our day to create unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
In the end, it is all about aligning what we do with who we are.
Paula Morand, CSP is a leadership building, revenue boosting, strategy expanding keynote speaker, author and visionary. This dreaming big and being bold expert brings her vibrant energy, humor and wisdom to ignite individuals, organizations and communities to lead change, growth and bold impact. 23 years, 25,000 clients, 19 countries, 11 books, former radio personality, 10x award winning entrepreneur and humorous emcee.
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