There was a scene in “The Imitation Game” when the protagonist —as baddies started to destroy his work—exclaimed, “You will never understand the importance of what I am creating here.”
And as they continued wreaking havoc around him it was clear they didn’t. Poor sap.
But it made me think of the main reason some people are passionate about what they do every day, and why others are not.
Passion for work follows importance of work
Quite simply, people who are passionate about their work think their work is important; people who are not, do not.
Sadly, this last group represent too many of us, people who range from being numb to daily drudgery to those who are passionate about hating their work.
What defines important work?
What makes work important? For the character in “The Imitation Game” he was trying to save millions of lives by ending World War II and stopping Hitler. If that’s not important work, nothing is.
Clearly Tony Robbins, Stephen Hawkins, the Pope, Jimmy Carter and Oprah are doing important work.
Important work has universal appeal
Important work often impacts a LOT of people and has one or more of the following impacts:
- It could change the world
- It could save lives
- It could make the impossible possible
- It could make lives easier
- It could reveal a wonder
- it could solve a mystery
- It could give hope
If your work impacts the lives of thousands or millions of people then clearly you’re doing important work, but the scale of it’s impact does not make work important. In fact,
Important work is work that’s important TO YOU
Not all of us can do important work as described above, and that’s OK.
Because what really matters is whether or not the work you do every day is important TO YOU.
You are the only one that determines whether your work is important. You don’t need anyone else’s agreement.
Some people will spend their lives collecting stamps, telling tourists where to go, cooking for strangers, and some get their jollies from studying worms, rocks and the sex lives of Klingons.
Many others will make beds, clean rooms, care for animals etc., etc. and these ‘average’ people are happy doing their work because for them they are doing work that is important or fulfilling to them.
Important work has personal meaning
For work to be important to you it must be connected to something that is important to you e.g. your personal mastery, taking care of your family, helping you fulfil your dream, or helping people in some way.
If you were to ask some of these ‘average’ workers why they think their work is important, or rather important to them, they might say any of the following:
- The chef, “I’m good at what I do and I like doing what I’m good at.”
- The hotel cleaning person, “I’m grateful to do this job because it allows me to take care of my family.”
- The office manager, “I like helping people solve a problem”
- The career counsellor, “I like helping people achieve their own dreams.”
- The Klingon sexologist, “Klingons turn me on.”
- The mailroom clerk, “What I do is necessary to the functioning of this company and I like working here. My bosses and colleagues treat me well and it makes me feel good to be part of this organisation.”
What’s clear is that for these people their jobs are important to them because they have connected it to something that has meaning to them. Gallup confirmed this in a study about what really matters to factory workers.
Does your work have meaning for you?
In my travels I come across too many people doing meaningless work. It’s not that their job inherently has no meaning, but that their job has no meaning for them.
They move things around and show up for a paycheck. They can’t wait for the weekend, vacation and find nothing wrong with taking a sick day to avoid work.
Apart from the tragic waste of human potential, it’s sad on a personal level because these people aren’t even aware of the joy and fulfilment that they deny themselves by not doing work that turns them on.
And it all starts with one simple question. Do you do important work? If not, why not?