Put Your Heart Into Your Work

100_0019Where do you spend most of your waking hours? I know it: at work. Much like the bed you sleep in or what you eat for breakfast every day, it just makes good sense to figure out how to do best the things you do most regularly. Or maybe doing something “best” doesn’t accurately describe the importance of this concept. It’s time to put your heart into your work.

Practically speaking, what does this look like? It is about finding meaning in what you do. Finding meaning in your work gives you new eyes, and puts your heart at the center of what you do. There is a kind of psychological hardiness that comes from finding personal meaning. It means that you have taken ownership of what’s important, and no boss, partner, or circumstance can take it from you.

Dr. Rachel Remen presented these ideas at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center talk this spring. She believes putting your heart at the center of your work can help avoid burnout.

We are all better when we put our heart into what we do. And most of us are busy at our jobs most of the time. Therefore, making efforts to do this at work will have a big payoff over time in the rest of our lives.

This does not have to seem like you are out to change the world. It can start by just listening compassionately to others at your job, or reminding yourself the purpose of some of the tasks you do almost without thinking. Small efforts like this will help you tune out the noise of little things that weigh you down, and tune into the part of yourself that is hard wired to connect. With this connection will come a greater sense of meaning in your day. And when you have found even small meaning in your work it will be easier to figure out what the next step can be. It is not up to you to fix your environment; it is enough to relate to your own tasks in a better way.

Dr. Remen gives examples mostly from medical practice, and it has application for all of us. Find out what’s important to you, she says, and “do it on purpose”. She describes doctors who look for the “holy moments”, such as one doctor who delivered a baby girl in a parking lot and was watching the moment she opened her eyes and saw the world for the first time. When you can recognize these moments in your job — the moments that give your job meaning — it will make you better at your job and happier in your life.  They are present for all of us, in every kind of work, when we begin to notice.

I highly recommend reading one of Dr Remen’s inspiring stories about this exercise on her website here.