In a hilarious yet telling scene from That 70s Show, the dad tells his teenage son (who is complaining about his job), “If it wasn’t work they wouldn’t call it ‘work.’ They’d call it ‘super wonderful crazy fun time.’” Even though I laugh at this, I refer to it often as an outdated concept of work.
The expectation that work must be hard has been a predominant workview of the past. You were supposed to work hard, go to school, get a job, and provide for your family. It didn’t matter whether you liked your job. You did it because you were expected to and because you needed to put food on the table. You may have worked for the same company your whole career. If you wanted fun or ease in your life, you did what you could on the weekends (if you had weekends off) or waited for retirement so you could finally do what you really wanted. “Work” and “fun” didn’t belong in the same sentence.
There was a place for this kind of work ethic. It was based in survival. The intentions behind it were pure: to build a better life for the next generation.
But the world of work is changing. The inherited belief that work has to be hard to be valuable is leading to widespread burnout. People are so caught up in doing the hard thing or the expected thing that they’ve become disconnected from doing the aligned thing, the thing that’s fulfilling, regenerative, and contributes to a better future for everyone.
The generations before us paved the way for us to make a different choice. We have room to grow and expand what work looks like going forward.
Let’s start with the thesaurus. Synonyms for “work” include “effort,” “exertion,” “labor,” “toil,” “slog,” “drudgery,” “grind.”
Raise your hand if you feel depleted just reading those words.
Other synonyms include “creation,” “masterpiece,” “thrive.”
What do you feel now?
This second set of words relates to a “body of work” and to what “works.” These are the connotations I believe we need to integrate more fully into our understanding of work.
Each human being is the “body” of its work.
We are spiritual beings having an embodied human experience. We are all here to call in, channel, and share our unique soul work. We are here to create more love and alignment on the planet. We are indeed here to thrive. The more humans learn to thrive, the more humanity thrives as a whole, and the more our earth is restored and rejuvenated.
The workplace is evolving and the next generations already have many more opportunities to define what work looks like. People are growing more conscious of different working styles and wanting their work to mean something. They want their work to contribute to a greater purpose and to make an impact. They know that work can and should be fun. That doesn’t mean rainbows and unicorns all the time. It does mean work can and should feel deeply rewarding, inspiring, and satisfying. That kind of work changes the world.
How do we create that?
It starts with more of us doing what comes naturally.
Doing what comes naturally is somehow perceived as taking the easy way out. We assume that we have to put in extensive effort and long hours, beat our heads against the wall for some indeterminate amount of time doing a thing we *should* be doing or *should* be better at, and then finally emerge on the other side into that elusive thing called “success.”
It’s time to give our heads a rest.
One of the most beautiful things I heard as I was beginning my coaching practice was that “your soul work should feel like water flowing through you.” Meaning it should feel natural, it should flow freely, and it's allowed to feel easy.
Growing up in an outdated work paradigm, we tend to devalue what comes naturally to us. We assume that what comes naturally to us comes naturally to others. If we’re good at it or it feels easy, we shrug it off. We don’t recognize it as a gift. We don’t think what comes naturally is special or unique. We certainly don’t think we stand out for it.
Ironically, we also assume that what’s hard for us is easy for others. We must be the only ones struggling. “Others” sure are a lot better at everything than we are!
Time to stop the comparison game and focus on what you desire to create in the world.
Here’s the thing about hard. “Hard and aligned” is different from “hard and soul-sucking.” If we’re aligned with who we really are, “hard” might simply mean we don’t know the “how” of what we’re creating. Not all the steps have revealed themselves.
If your path feels challenging but inspiring, take it one step at a time and call on the universe for help. The universe wants you to succeed in your natural work. The temporary overwhelm of not quite knowing how your dream will manifest is normal. The invitation is to relax and open up to trusting that you are exactly where you need to be. You are invited to deepen your faith. The dream is already in progress.
The true dream is being fulfilled in every moment you show up as you.
Rising to the challenge of being your fullest self feels different from the drudgery of being out of alignment with who you really are.
If the life is being drained out of you by hard and soul-sucking work that you feel like you *should* be doing, pause and reflect. What obligations are fueling this path? What stories are you telling about your worthiness or readiness to engage in fulfilling work? What stories are you telling about your need to prove your value by external metrics?
What stories are you willing to rewrite?
Reflect some more. What feels like water flowing through you? What makes your soul sing? What can help you bring more of that into your life?
You are absolutely worthy of creating fulfilling work. It does NOT have to be hard to be worthwhile. Trust that the universe (and humanity) wants and needs what you offer.
I think we need more “super wonderful crazy fun time” in our lives. What about you?