Several studies have shown that the experience of work could be better. Most of us will spend 100,000 hours at work, and over half of our waking hours will probably be at work. However, only 10% of Americans report that they are engaged in their work, meaning that 90% of us remain disengaged or actively hostile towards work. So, most of us see work as a curse, not a blessing. We experience it as toil, as something fruitless -no good comes out of this whole thing pointless -does not mean anything. It doesn’t do anything it doesn’t mean anything.
This experience has given rise to this desire that work will not only allow us to be ourselves but also to be me. A work that gives me my identity, work that gives me meaning. And many people are now working for identity, for meaning. We want to fulfill a need. We want to find work that provides meaning, identity, and purpose.
But that is looking for work to answer a question it cannot answer. Work cannot answer the question of who I am. We are looking for work to give something it cannot provide, which is purpose. What it does is it leads us to make decisions and take jobs based on status, based on what we perceive our identity would be if we had this job. Or we would resent work that doesn’t allow us to express ourselves.
How do we escape this expressive individualism, working to find meaning in our lives and identity in our lives? The answer is that we need to rediscover our vocation. Someone out there that is calling you. You are being called out of yourself to something else. Work is where I bring my meaning, my identity. It involves:
a) Looking outside of yourself and recognizing there is a need out there
b) Looking inside yourself and recognizing that you have something to meet that need, that you can meet that need
It means an awareness of the self, not for self-expression but for self-donation. Thus, I will not look for my work for identity or meaning. I will be fearless of fruitless and pointless work. I will not be afraid of toil. Regarding work, it is not the what; it is the who. It is not what we do but who we are or become. All work has dignity because it is a human action; it is a human decision.