Rick McDaniel: On Labor Day, think about these ways to find fulfillment in your work

Labor Day marks the end of summer, even if it the season lasts until Sept. 23. The days of vacations and weekend trips are over. School is back in session.

Sam Keen once wrote, “Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.” Now laziness gives way again to work.

But before that happens we celebrate Labor Day. One last chance to relax and rest. A day set aside to honor the American worker. And an opportunity to reflect on the nature and value of work.

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God is the original worker. He wears many hats: real estate developer, zoologist, architect, civil engineer, strategic planner, artist and more. This means work must be good in and of itself since God can only do what is good.

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It also means work reflects the activity of God. The work that God gives us has dignity in it. Just as God works, he has created us to work. We are co-workers with God, carrying out His purposes in this world.

The lawyer secures justice for clients. The grocer supplies food to customers. The doctor meets the health care needs of patients. The homemaker nurtures children. It takes all kinds of workers to do what God wants done in this world.

God expects us to work – at the office, factory, farm field, school or wherever we work. When we do it well it brings glory to God. This gives our work great meaning and significance. Work also helps to meet our necessary material needs.

Is this enough for us to find fulfillment in our work? It certainly gives us a grander understanding. But whatever our particular job, there are ways to find fulfillment in what we do.

 Have Realistic Expectations

Though it is meaningful to realize the inherent value of work, a realistic understanding is necessary. Work can provide a measure of significance and a sense of self-worth but it cannot fully deliver that for us. Work will not bring total self-fulfillment.

When we expect our job to do this for us we end up despondent and disillusioned because of unrealistic expectations. Work is limited; it is not meant to fill the need for worship, family or recreation.

In fact, when work becomes everything to us we fall into workaholism. Now work crowds out other important parts of our lives. This way of seeking fulfillment is a never-ending cycle that hurts us and those we love.

 Work Well with Leadership

Too many people begin to hate their job because they don’t work well with leadership. Authority structures are necessary and needed in the workplace. An unhealthy relationship with your boss will never lead to job fulfillment.

Your boss may not always be right but he or she deserves your loyalty. You would not be in your position if you and your boss didn’t think you could work together. Help your boss anticipate problems, pitfalls and challenges. You would want that assistance if you were in his or her position.

Feeling unappreciated or unjustly treated can cause you to be apathetic. This moves you away from fulfillment. Look for ways to make a positive contribution instead of complaining. Offer a helpful opinion and tell the truth when asked.

Enhance Your Emotional Quotient

Your relationships must be good for you to have fulfillment at work. Daniel Goleman coined the term “emotional intelligence” to describe our ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively. Many experts believe your emotional quotient is as important as your intelligence quotient in determining personal success.

Emotional intelligence comprises four fundamental capabilities: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and social skill. Each capability contains a certain set of competencies.

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When you relate well with your co-workers, show you care about them and think of their contribution as valuable you experience fulfillment in your job. Being able to work on a team is crucial to your job. Communicating effectively includes both talking and listening. Expressing appreciation goes a long way toward building relationships and positively impacting people.

Develop Your Skills

Since God has blessed us with talents to do our job we should work hard to develop them. When we improve our skills, it results in better work and more fulfillment. Demonstrating expertise at our job is a way of honoring God.

You may think your job doesn’t require skill, or that some skills matter more than yours. You may think you’re too old to develop your skills or you don’t really have any skills. But you do have skills, they matter and you need to develop them.

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You can develop your skills through self-study, school or training. It takes a commitment to continuous learning. Begin by selecting a skill to develop. And then target a specific skill-building strategy.

Your work has value. The greatest amount of time in your life is spent working. Make sure and find fulfillment in what you do.

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