Do You Really Love Your Job? It’s Time to Answer That Question.

Fish swim. Birds fly. Rabbits run. Not because they have to, but because they love to.

Did I tell you about the time I met Dan Marino? Yes, that Dan Marino, all-Pro, Hall of Fame, 61,000 passing yards Dan Marino.

A few years ago, I attended a conference in Miami. During a mid-morning break, I went to the restroom—like every one else in the meeting—and ran into a long line of guys nervously pacing in place. So I shot behind a couple of curtains, across the lobby, down a hallway, and found a men’s room with no line.

As I walked through the double doors, I entered a palatial expanse as big as my house. Literally. There was only one person in this real man’s men’s room, and we met each other eye-to-eye. It was Dan Marino.

Dan smiled and said to me, “Hey!” I smiled back, cool as a cucumber, and replied, “Hey!” and he went out the door.

Here’s what I remember about that encounter. When I looked Dan Marino in the eyes, I noticed that we’re about the same height, about the same weight, and about the same build. I whispered to myself as he left the restroom, “Well, I could have been Dan Marino.”

Except for a few things.

I can’t throw a football in a tight spiral with pinpoint accuracy sixty yards down a football field. I can’t read complex defensive schemes. (I can tell you what a nickel and dime package is, but I never actually see them until someone draws squiggly lines on the TV.) And I can’t release a forward pass in three seconds while dodging 300-pound linebackers. Except for those things, I could have been Dan Marino.

Those things, however, are the whole point, aren’t they? They make Dan Marino Dan Marino, or any successful NFL quarterback. Just a few moments of self awareness (admittedly, not my greatest strength) and I realized that.

Self awareness is what we’ve been served non-stop lately, like all-you-can-eat shrimp at Red Lobster. COVID-19 has forced us to rethink many, many things, and one of them is work. So here’s an important question to ponder right now:

Do You Love Your Job? Really?

Buyer’s remorse occurs when, after purchasing an expensive item, you consider that purchase in the cold hard light of day. “Oh, my God, I think I’ve made a big mistake!” you wake up exclaiming. But you’re stuck with a two thousand dollar surround-sound stereo speaker system that rocks the entire block, but your wife won’t let you play it at volume ten (not that this has happened to me or anything).

Many of us are laboring at jobs with buyer’s remorse, work that’s not a good fit. The cold, hard light of sheltering in place has caused us to reconsider that job. Good! There’s a tectonic shift occurring in the business marketplace with ample opportunity for reemployment and redeployment in companies around the world. This disruption is a perfect time to rethink work.

Here are three guideposts to direct you in your quest:

Guidepost One: Anticipation

The first indicator of alignment of talent to task—that is, a fit between your natural ability and what you do at work—is anticipation. Do you look forward to doing your job or do you dread it?

When we do work we love, work we were created by God to do, we can’t wait to do more of that work. It’s just as simple as that.

I remember one of the very first times I spoke in public. It was a total train wreck. I was so nervous my legs visibly twitched. I got lost in my notes. I stumbled and stammered over my words, wrapping up ten minutes early with nothing else to say. And I couldn’t wait to do it again!

Why? Because even in that uber-embarrassing moment, a spark was lit inside me. I got a sense within my soul that this was something I was created to do. Since that debacle, I’ve spoken publicly hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times. None, thank goodness, with the same awkward gaffes, but all with the same eager anticipation.

Guidepost Two: Joy

Guidepost One looks forward to doing work you love. Guidepost Two asks you to look backward. As you reflect on what you do for a living, does it bring a smile to your face? Does it give you joy?

There’s an interesting biochemical phenomena that takes place when we do something we were made to do. Neurons fire along channels prewired in our brain, making it awash with feelings of fulfillment, satisfaction, and pleasure. It’s the ultimate reinforcing loop.

“On a microscopic level your mental network, ranging from smooth T1 lines all the way to broken connections, explains why certain behavior and reactions ‘just feel right’ to you, and others, no matter how hard you practice, seem stilted and forced,” write Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton in their groundbreaking book, Now, Discover Your Strengths. “This is as it should be.”

Fulfillment, satisfaction, and pleasure shouldn’t be fleeting moments at work but the primary experience of your profession. In spite of setbacks that occur along the way, do you enjoy your work?

Guidepost Three: Effectiveness

Birds fly. Fish swim. Rabbits run. It’s not just what they do, it’s what they love. Ask a bird to swim, a fish to run, and a rabbit to fly, and now you’ve got a problem. A third guidepost to finding your fit at work asks a very simple question, “Are you good at what you do?”

This indicator of innate talent, as opposed to future anticipation and past reflection, is present effectiveness, or as Now, Discover Your Strengths puts it, “consistent near perfect performance.”

When you complete the responsibilities of your job, does the effort you invest deliver the results you need? If not, talent and task may not be aligned. If the effort you invest is magically multiplied with results that are above and beyond expectations, just the opposite is true.

A car with wheels that are out of alignment doesn’t perform as well as it should, and its tires wear out to the core. When we find our fit at work, along with it, we find effectiveness in job performance. When we don’t, we experience exhaustion.

Pretending to be a gentleman farmer, I once owned a small farmhouse on six acres of land. One spring I needed to put up a new fence and on a spare Saturday took on the project. I drove the first post into the ground, paced out twenty yards or so, lined up the next post, and drove it into the ground. I repeated this process along the perimeter of our property, wrapping fencing around the posts.

This is the same process I’m asking you to follow to discover the work that you love.

Drive the guideposts of anticipation, joy, and effectiveness into the soil of your soul, aligning each with the other and wrapping your job around them. This may mean leaving the position you’re in for another opportunity, or it may mean adjusting what you’re doing to be more in tune with your natural talent. Either way, what this crisis has taught us is that life’s too short to waste on work that doesn’t work.

So let me ask you, do you really love your job? If you don’t know for sure, isn’t it time to answer that question?

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