Is your work coherent with your life?
This is a question rarely asked before 40, but it’s so important after 40.
Most of our work lives have been about accepting the views of others and working to the plans of others. We had jobs and we were expected to meet the requirements of our jobs. While this is a good and important ego building and development part of life before 40, after 40, it destroys the soul.
What does work coherence mean?
Does your work make sense to you? Is your work an end in itself or is it just an activity to please someone else or to make money?
After 40, it becomes necessary to make our work self-directed, and it has to fit our own values. The opposite of this ideal is directed work in which we have little choice when it comes to what we work on, and how we work.
Organizations are mandated by law to maximize shareholder profit. This competes with the needs of the individual, who first and foremost, wants to maximize work happiness and meaning. Organizations are often confused about this, assuming that if everyone makes money, then everyone is happy. This thinking can be traced back to turn of the century management practices (and many HR practices), and they are in direct conflict with personal values such as independent work, creativity, and joy for workers.
Motivation vs. Meaning
Research into organizational life has been focused on how people can be motivated to work. Sadly, this has left little room for ideas about helping workers find meaning in their work — and these two ideas are very different.
You might, for example, be motivated by the promise of more money for a task well done — but in our current system, this becomes the major focus, while finding meaning in what we do takes a back seat.
After 40: Meaning craves attention and respect
While organizations focus on a person’s competence to do a job, it is more important after 40 to understand whether a person has the capacity to enjoy his or her job. Society’s view of success is often biased towards the material: accomplishments, awards, and money.
In over-40s who don’t enjoy their work, however, deeply hidden is a person desperate for the key out of their job prison.
How can over-40s recreate a richer sense of work and life?
The Buddha said, ‘’Work out your own salvation; do not depend on others.’’
Self-reflection must start with an inventory of what is most important in your life. This must be an honest open dialog — with yourself — about what kind of work makes you feel alive, and gives you unlimited energy and excitement about your day. What work makes you feel whole? What work makes you feel your contribution fills a need in the world — gives you a sense of purpose?
Following your calling and your heart is a matter of understanding the type of work that has the greatest pull on your life.
How can we know what we want to do after 40?
Researchers have suggested that having vision matched with action is the best course of action. In the organizational context, this is approached as a competition — developmental plans to meet some short term organization need, for example.
Instead, finding your calling after 40 must be approached as a game — no different than a child playing on the playground. It is through this playing and self-discovery that you can finally find work that is full of meaning, and coherent with your life.
Each person in mid-life must answer for him or herself the most difficult questions they will ever have to answer. Who am I? What is most important to me? How do I feel about myself? Which of my life-long beliefs are no longer useful, and must now be changed? What new possibilities might there be for my work and my life?
What is my place in the world and what work might renew my energy and attitude about life itself?
What would be perfect for you?
Mid-life adults must ask themselves this question: What would be perfect for me now? What work will fit my daily patterns? What must I do now to move toward what I want? How will this new movement toward a more joyful work life affect my relationships with others, and with money?
What can I do to build my emotional state so I am ready for this journey?
How can I build a new support network to help me through these changes?
Retirement is a silly idea for those OVER 40
Retirement seems like a much better idea to those in their 20s and 30s. After all, most people don’t like their work, and the thought of retirement down the road to do something else gives many people the energy to get up in the morning.
After 40, it takes more than the dream of retirement to get us out of bed — it takes the vision of waking up to work that feeds our souls.
After 40, most of us are smart enough to see into the future, and we know we will need more than book clubs and cruises — assuming we can even afford this as we age!
What are you waiting for?
Perhaps you are waiting for permission — permission from someone else — to tell you it’s OK to start searching for your calling — the work that will last your lifetime, and bring you joy and happiness.
I have bad news: This permission will never come from anyone else — even those who love you. Permission to find your passion must come from YOU. Once you give yourself permission, your life and your world will open up like a new rose beginning to bloom.
You deserve this
You have probably worked 20 years or more at jobs meant to use you to JUST maximize shareholder profit.
Don’t you think your time has come to maximize the joy and coherence in your life and work instead? I think so.
I’ll be cheering you on as you go- Craig Nathanson