How to Enliven Work to Live Longer
We spend 1/3 of our lives at work. What we do matters less than why we do it.
Posted June 4, 2018
The average person will spend 90,000 hours of his or her lifetime at work. That is roughly 1/3 of your overall life. So if work is a grind, most likely the rest of your existence will be too.
Work and life issues fascinate me because we spend so much time either at or thinking about work. A good attitude can take us far. But having a great work environment with people as motivated as you can be even better. A lot depends on the people at the helm. If the leaders are likable and effective, chances are work is a joy, not a chore.
It is not surprising that the key to good leadership is not in how well a person can pressure another to get the job done. Good leadership means listening. According to a recent Forbes article, it is in fact the ultimate skill to bring out the best in people.
“If you learn to listen, the world will reveal itself to you,” says Arnold Donald, successful CEO of Carnival Cruise. In just a few years, he turned a lagging cruise ship company into an extremely profitable business.
It started by his taking time to listen. To employees. To potential (or former disgruntled) customers. To analysts. To the media. He provided a platform for people to give feedback. And by giving them what they wanted, he doubled Carnival’s stock price in five years.
Daniel M. Cable recently penned a book called Alive at Work: The Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do. People who feel charged up and ready to tackle tasks at work tend to be those who are given the creative space to exhibit their best selves. In fact, leaders who activate the seeking system in our brains, that part of our thinking that encourages us to explore and discover, have more productive and dedicated workers. Dopamine-drenched thinkers view time differently – that is why time flies when you are having fun.
Creative space leads to a sense of ownership and freedom. That leads to more job satisfaction and engagement, which actually leads to longevity, both in terms of job tenure and life itself.
It turns out job satisfaction is not just reserved for a certain set of professions either. In other words, it is not so much what we do for a living, but why we do it. If we feel a sense of purpose and can truly articulate why we are doing something, we will have more focus and stamina.
At the Make-a-Wish Foundation, an organization dedicated to fulfilling wishes of seriously ill children and their families, burnout can be high, given the emotional drain employees experience. In order to prevent high staff turnover, then-CEO Susan Fenters Lerch borrowed an idea she learned about while at a development conference at Disneyland. She encouraged employees to come up with their own titles. She called herself “Fairy Godmother of Wishes”. The COO selected the term “Minister of Dollars and Sense” while one administrative assistant chose the title “Goddess of Greetings”. While it may seem frivolous, creating their own titles gave staff members a reminder of why they do what they do each day. It heightened their sense of purpose, ownership and joy while placing a smile of their clients’ faces too.
Minor shifts in the way we approach work can move mountains. The way we spend 1/3 of our lives matters. Being alive at work is a worthwhile way to spend that time and can make the difference between motivation and exasperation for employees and the people who lead them.