Has work—even church work—become a rat race? 4 proven ways to recapture meaning in the daily grind
Most of us started serving churches based on the desires of our heart rather than our desire for a paycheck. (After all, there are more lucrative production careers out there.) But when faced with frustrations and long hours, that drive of the soul can evaporate.If you find that you’ve lost the sense of meaning in what you do, here are four proven ways to get it back: Recapture areas of autonomy. In Dan Pink’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, he highlights the example that children play and explore all on their own. That each one of us is created with inner drive. He also shares in his book that one of the keys to maintaining our inner drive is having a sense of autonomy in our work. Susan Fowler writes in the Harvard Business Review, “Autonomy is people’s need to perceive that they have choices, that what they are doing is of their own volition, and that they are the source of their own actions.”While few of us have complete autonomy in our jobs, the more we have, the easier it is for us to experience meaning and engagement. If you are suffering a lack of autonomy, look for the areas where you can recapture it. You may be able to ask for greater creative input, more influence over your schedule, impact on how certain things are done or even the ability to make changes to the space you physically work in. Often, it isn’t even a matter of asking for permission. We can identify an area and take responsibility.Take a hard look at your tasking Rick Warren writes in The Purpose Driven Life that “The only really happy people are those who have learned how to serve.” The challenge is that when you work for a church--your whole job is about serving and you can still burn out.It is hard to feel connected to meaning when our days are eaten up by seemingly meaningless tasks. Pulling back and thinking through what the real need is that we are trying to meet, then doing a “task audit” usually reveals a number of things we give energy to that don’t serve that high purpose. Taking the time to figure out which tasks would serve the high goals takes some creativity. But if you are going to have the conversation with your team about making changes to the tasks you do, it is essential to be able to walk in with possible solutions. Reframe your role. “When it comes to purpose at work, there are three core drives that will determine whether we feel fulfilled in what we’re doing: who we serve, how we serve them and why we serve them,” writes Aaron Hurst, author of the Purpose Economy. “The happiest people feel like they’re needed,” says David Brooks, an NY Times Columnist who studies satisfaction at work. Brooks shares the story of a study of hospital custodial workers where some described their work as cleaning up after people, while other workers described it as creating a safe environment for patients. “If your attitude is about that service, you just have a happier job and a more meaningful job,” Brooks says.We can get in a rut of just seeing our little piece of the world forgetting that it fits into a bigger picture. Tell the voice inside your head to 'shut up' Most of the time the stress levels of high achievers are internally generated. All of the self-critiquing and judgmental thoughts we have about ourselves create unnecessary pressure--and frequently have nothing to do to with what has to get done or the way the people we work with see us. We can get caught up comparing ourselves with larger ministries, people with more experience--or even just what we see on a daily basis via Facebook. That critical voice draws attention from the meaning in our job and puts it squarely on us--shifting our reason for working from meaning and purpose to our own egos. (Yes, I may be writing from personal experience here.) And ego-driven service almost always burns out. So, the next time you start to feel that anxiety, shift the focus back to the people you are serving. That shift in focus requires us to stop defining our identity based on our performance and reconnects us to the meaning of why we do what we do.
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