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Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Harbert Magazine.
The inspiring influences we receive from family, friends, and associates – those neatly packaged versions of why and how we need to “get a job” -- often revolve around having a career that commands a respectable paycheck. Certainly we understand that money is required to keep ourselves fed, sheltered and functioning independently.
As we move beyond the basics of sustenance and shelter, we envision comforts and amenities that can only come through greater levels of wealth. This thinking predisposes us to aim toward making more money and accumulating things, nice things, more things, better things. Often, at work, our focus narrows on doing what is expected of us and drives our predominant behavior, so that we can sustain the means to acquire more. We jockey for position to declare our relative importance among the mass of others who are doing the same. We seek to turn our work place into a stage where we can declare our significance. We do this and more to advance our self-interest.
Yet if we don’t move beyond perpetually pursuing more and more wealth or acting within the strict confines of our self-interest, we find ourselves in the final days of our lives, surrounded by our stuff, wondering why our work life was not more gratifying. When the remainder of life becomes short and the things we accumulated have lost their luster, we are sadly struck by how little time is left to make our daily work mean something more than a paycheck. But it is never too late.
Intentionally connecting with the meaning and purpose of what we do professionally can deeply enrich our lives, well beyond the gratification of accumulating material things. Actively shaping the meaning and purpose of the work we do creates opportunities to bond with the strengths of others with a similar mindset. Consciously shifting from a mindset of mere wealth accumulation to one with service intentionally at the center of all work activity expands the organization's ability to address issues, to serve the underserved, and to expand the capacity our communities’ future generations.
When our mindset shifts to doing important work rather than just profiling on a stage at work to look important, phenomenal results emerge and the bigger paycheck comes anyway. In the end, our lives will be more gratifying.
Joe Collazo is assistant director of the Graduate Executive Program.