A couple of weeks ago, I took the bus back from the city to my apartment. It was a long, rainy day and I could not wait to be home with my dog on the couch, eating a bag of chips in front of the TV. I never liked taking the bus, but since it was raining too much to take my bike, and I can never find a parking spot in the city, I dreadfully decided to take the bus.
The bus finally arrived, and people started getting on it. As people were hopping on, I could loudly hear the driver say: “HELLO THERE! Good afternoon sir!”, “Good day Miss!”, “HELLO!”, and after every bus pass that scanned: “Thank you!”.
At first, I noticed myself cringing as I did not understand the happiness and excitement of this driver, but when I got on it myself, my mood totally changed.
“HELLO madame! Everything alright with you today?”
I could not force to keep my face straight and grumpy as it had been for the last hour, and started happily smiling back at the driver. A simple, authentic, and honest hello had just shifted my mood 180°.
The entire ride the man was talking to the people on his bus. There were some regulars that knew him, but a lot of people didn’t. His warmth spread over the entire bus, and before I knew it, I found myself having a lovely conversation with the person next to me, which I never do.
When I got off the bus, the driver waved at me and said: “Have a nice evening, miss!”, which he had said to every single person that got off before me.
In 20 minutes my grumpy self had become a happy one. I did not eat chips on the couch in front of the tv that night. I now also intentionally say hi to the bus driver with a smile, every time I get on it.
While such a small encounter, this bus driver taught me a major life lesson that day. You can be impactful in every encounter, therefore also in every job, and many people have forgotten what it means to have an impact. Impact doesn’t mean you change the world, it also doesn’t mean you are remembered by many people or are recorded in history books. It means that you made someone smile, you contributed to making someone’s life better in any kind of way.
So why don’t we feel that purpose? Why don’t we feel happy at work?
The bigger companies or corporations get, the further away employees are removed from the person at the other end that they are serving. This creates something Max Weber calls ‘alienation’. We lack meaning and purpose in the work we do, as we are
a) not directly connected to the person we’re serving, but more importantly, we are
b) no longer working for our client. We work for money, we work for our family, we work for our future. We forget that the whole reason we are actually working, is to provide service and meaning to someone else’s life.
Forgetting who we are serving, what impact we are having, in whatever big or small way, means that we lose the fulfillment in the work we do, which leaves us unmotivated and unhappy in the work place. This does NOT mean you need to change jobs to be in direct contact with the person you are serving at the other end, but that you simply need to remember what your work actually means to someone else.
Not only the bus driver made me happy that day, but every single person that works at that company to get that driver on the bus. I therefore not only thank the driver, but thank the people that hired the driver, the mechanic that maintains the bus, and every step in between.
A year ago, I read and studied the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu scriptures, reaching yet again for new tools to improve my own journey towards happiness and peace, together with that of my coaching clients. One of the most important and most valued concepts of the Gita, is the concept of selfless service. Selfless service means that you work for the sole purpose of serving the person at the other end. You work not for yourself, but for the other. When you work for service and leave out your own interests, you increase your productivity, as you do what you do out of love for the customer and therefore want them to have the best product/service possible. You provide better work, get more appreciation, and eventually end up having more success. Not because that was the goal in the first place, but because you truly cared about the work you were doing.
The funny thing therefore in finding happiness and fulfillment at work, is that that journey can never be about you. The more we place ourselves in the center of service, the less fulfilled we will be. We’ve grown up in a time where so much emphasis is put on taking care of ourselves, making a better life for ourselves, SELF-improving, and while this is important, it’s never ever going to make us feel fulfilled and in line with our purpose.
So, what is the answer to the question posed in the title? How do you fall in love with your work? Even if you currently hate it?
You fall in love with people.
Not because they have done something to deserve it, but because we are all in this messy boat called ‘life’ together, doing our best to figure it all out. And whatever we can do for each other to make that ride just a little bit easier, we choose is worth working for.
If you find yourself in a position at work, not loving what you do, start applying these 3 little things, and watch how your energy shifts:
- Create your ideal client
Create an image in your mind of the person at the other end of your service/product or that of your company, using/consuming it, and in what way that impacts them or improves their life. An example of this can be, if you work in a company that sells construction materials, seeing your client being able to create their perfect home or starting their own business in construction. While it’s not your company, you are still a necessary part of the whole process, helping that person to build their house or business. Therefore, when you’re at work, provide your work for that person.
- Look for every person in every product/service you use
The other way around, try to see every person that worked for you to get you to enjoy or use your favorite products or services. In every cup of coffee you drink is a whole line of people that worked to grow that coffee, transport it, package it, do the administration, work in the store that sells it, … If all those people were not there, you would not be enjoying your coffee right now. Be grateful for them and be mindful of how we all work together to serve each other in a sense.
- Make a back-up plan.
We feel unhappy because we desire things to be different then they are. One of those desires when it comes to working, is the desire to be free or have choice. We feel stuck in our job sometimes because we feel we don’t have choice, but in that forget that we are CHOOSING to be at work every day. Creating a back-up plan doesn’t mean that you plan to leave your current job, but that you remind yourself you have CHOICE. It may also remind you that there’s a lot of jobs that are worse than the one you’re in now, and that you can actually feel grateful to work where you are right now. Our unhappiness doesn’t come from our circumstances, but from our own mindset about these circumstances most of the time. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. It’s green where you water it (yes I know, very cliché)
So tomorrow, as you go into work, remember that you are serving someone. Remember also that you are served by so many, and that you should take time to acknowledge that. Finally, remember that you have choice, and you can intentionally choose to serve every day.