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What is your job telling you?

October 16, 2020

When you hear this question, what is your first thought? What are you thinking Monday morning? What if you were asked this question at noon on Wednesday or end of day Friday? Is the answer different? If it is do you know why? Are you listening?

For many of us our jobs fill the majority of our lives for five out of the seven days. It consumes our time, provides us income, provides us with social contact, and for some provides our identity. Therefore, it is a good place to inquire about ourselves. Are we fitting our lives into our job or having the job fit into our lives? Neither answer is better for there are times when we use our jobs to support us in achieve a goal outside of work and other times when our lives outside of work take precedent. How then do I tell?

Let’s use the analogy of a farmer. In spring preparing the fields includes plowing to turn the existing plant life back into the soil. This also brings rocks to the surface which can be a problem for the plow as well as for the other steps in the lifetime of the crops. The farmer must leave the tractor and move the rock out of the field. In New England, there could be many rocks uncovered leading to a pile somewhere next to the field. This is repeated each year. Some farmers choose to throw them randomly along the edge of the field, others in a single pile, while others use the rocks to build stable walls. Occasionally you might also see these rocks formed into a form of sculpture. Regardless of what is done with the rocks, this is part of the job of plowing the field which is part of the process to get to harvesting the crop. It is a step which may be repeated frequently.

There is opportunity for the farmer to reflect upon his work for feedback about what it has to say to him. The farmer has to move the rocks. He is then left to choose in what way he disposes of those rocks. For some of us pushing them out of the field is the only thing on our mind. While others pay attention to what is possible. Some are comforted by putting the rocks in order. They find the extra effort stacking the rocks to be rewarding, a reminder of the incremental effort and progress they have made. A sense of pride is developed and reinforced as the wall emerges in time.

How to have our jobs fit into our lives

Now for some, the repetition and the growing number of rocks might become just the opposite of rewarding. Instead it may become a reminder of what I don’t like about this job and the more I work the more rocks appear and I can’t see the end. This increases their irritation and reinforces their fear they aren’t getting anywhere. Over time if these thoughts prevail, the number of rocks left in the field might increase resulting in damage to the equipment or reduction in yield. The rocks are strewn haphazardly along the perimeter reducing the size of the plowable field. The irritation experienced by the farmer regarding the repeatedly having to move another rock may then carry over after the plowing is done and affect their relationships.