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Health & Wellness Articles  ›  Healthy Lifestyles

Find Meaning in a Job Well Done

How to Make All Your Work Rewarding & Satisfying

-- By Dean Anderson, Behavioral Psychology Expert
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For most of us, work is a fact of life. Whether your paycheck helps care for a family, a home, tuition, or simply what you need to stay alive, we spend a large percentage of our waking hours doing some kind of work.

According to recent research, most of us also have conflicting feelings about our work. Over 84 percent of men and 77 percent of women say that, even if they had enough money to get by without working, they would continue to work because of the satisfaction it provides. But when these same people were asked if they would rather be doing something else at that moment, by far the largest number of “yes” answers came from those who were at work at the time.

Studies of adolescents indicate that ambivalence about work develops early. High school students report viewing their schoolwork and part-time jobs as being important for the future, and say that they get positive self-esteem from their accomplishments. But most prefer to spend their time doing less important things that don't require concentration—even though they don’t provide the same payoff in terms of self-esteem or future benefits.

This isn’t exactly earth-shattering news. Who doesn’t know that it’s more fun to do something pleasant, rather than something tedious that needs to be done? Or that successfully finishing something helps you feel good about yourself? Life is about choices. You can’t have it all, can you?

Maybe not. But here's the real question: Is there a way to make the necessary-but-unpleasant things-we-have-to-do more enjoyable? If you discover how to do that, you’ve really hit the jackpot in terms of building the foundation for a satisfying and rewarding lifestyle.

There are different theories about this, ranging from the “living in the moment” philosophy of Buddhism to the “quest for excellence” that’s popular in both business and human potential circles. But translating these theories into real-life strategies can be challenging.

One way to make it more concrete is to look at the realm of athletics, where play and work often come together naturally in interesting and instructive ways. Here’s an example from my own recent experience.

A few months ago, I became unmotivated to do my normal exercise routine. This came as a shock, because I’ve enjoyed exercising ever since I got back into it several years and many pounds ago—in fact, I’ve even been pretty compulsive about it at times. But all of a sudden, it was getting harder and harder to talk myself into going to the gym, and even when I did, I didn't like it much. I tried all the things I always tell others—switching up my routine, challenging myself, trying new exercises. (If you want to see something funny, watch a guy my age and size trying to keep up with the spandex crowd in the 9 a.m. Spinning class.) I even put on a few pounds thanks to reduced exercise—usually enough to scare me back onto the stairclimber, no matter how bored I am. But not this time.
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • I quit a job making the most money I have ever made in my life because my boss was always changing the end product of our research and there was never an "official" end result from our research. It never felt like I finished a project. I am a little OCD about these things, so I finally got stressed out enough to develop an ulcer as I am an end-result driven personality. I like to see finished products.

    Some days I regret the decision to leave, and other days I remember how I would be driving home and would just think "what if I drove off the edge of this overpass, would it kill me quickly?". Yeppers, time for a career change. I went into the environmental industry and LOVED it but wrecked a company truck, broke my neck, shoulder and ribs and was fired. So is it all because I couldn't take comfort in a job well done, or am I just NUTS? LOL I think it's a little of both, especially since I am on disability now. - 1/9/2014 12:31:48 PM
  • Like all Coach Dean's articles, this one gives motivation with humor and a better way to look at life! Great! - 4/4/2013 3:06:02 PM
  • Totally awesome article, love your style of writing and sharing, laughed out loud about the girls jumping rock to rock passing you, awesome of you to share that, reminds me that we have to keep a sense of humor about all of this stuff! - 4/4/2013 12:37:16 PM
  • Liked this - 4/4/2013 12:37:15 PM
  • Well done! - 4/4/2013 11:30:06 AM
  • Great article. Just wish my manager would read it and realize having a purpose is necessary for a more productive and satisfied worker. Mine says "just do it because I said so" after telling me "we won't be using the information for anything". My time could be much better utilized. - 4/4/2013 11:25:20 AM
  • This was a great article. Even in drudgery, we can find something special about what we are doing. I recently returned to my hometown to care for my mother and haven't set my mind to finding all the positives in this new life. I think this piece has given me a push in the right direction. Prior to the move, I had been underemployed and while the pay stunk, I really was able to feel good about the hard work I was doing. Now I just need to transfer that attitude to the hard work it is taking to care for mom. - 4/4/2013 10:33:06 AM
  • REFERENCEGIRL73
    Reminds me of the first time I went backpacking. The whole time I hated it and was cursing myself. I even had to let someone else take my pack for awhile. But at the end of the trail, all I wanted was to do it again. Thank you for the reminder! - 4/4/2013 8:12:15 AM
  • what a great article, motivating, have to re-read and absorb more, i give props to the writer - 4/4/2013 6:17:17 AM
  • What an inspiring way of looking at life! Thank you for writing this, I will look at my daily activities in a whole different way. Just love your articles Coach Dean! - 1/26/2013 5:25:59 AM
  • Great article. I needed to read this today! - 6/4/2012 1:32:05 PM
  • What a great read. I try to tell my brother the same thing when he is down about his job. - 2/1/2012 6:56:06 PM
  • What a great article! For a long time I was stuck in a mind-numbing, boring job which I hated. I tried some of your suggestions which did help improve my experience even though the situation remained unchanged. Unfortunately the management did not appreciate any show of creativity or initiative so to preserve my sanity I had to leave. - 2/1/2012 5:25:12 PM
  • I did so need this today. - 2/1/2012 3:36:18 PM
  • I long to have satisfaction in my work, but I find I'm never challenged enough. I'm never kept busy. And I've moved from job to job in my field and always found the same thing. Case in point, I've been back at work from holidays for a month and have hardly had anything to do. I find it really hard to want to come to work when I know 8 hours is going to drag on with me twiddling my thumbs trying to find something to do. I want to work! Nobody wants to make use of me. - 2/1/2012 11:32:54 AM