Don Phin
"Wish for a hundred years of doing your duty."

The Upanishads

(Ancient Hindu text)

We've all heard the question "Do we eat to live or do we live to eat?" My uncle told me that his goal was the latter; not surprisingly, he died of obesity and heart disease. Yet if we simply eat to live we can deprive ourselves of the glorious experience of sharing God's gift of food with one another. Who doesn't feel better about life after a great cup of coffee, a great meal or a slice of apple pie? Of course, the answer lies in the balance. Out of balance in either direction and we deprive ourselves of the fullness of life.

Now let's think about work in these terms. Of course, we must work to live. It's called survival and security. No surprise, the people who tend to survive and obtain security also tend to work the hardest. Like worker bees, we're programmed to get it done.

Of course, that's only half of the equation. We must live to work. As Victor Frankel reminded us, man searches for meaning. Meaning comes through our relationships with our friends and loved ones, with God, and with the work we do. As Shakespeare so eloquently stated, "To work we love, with delight we go." Abraham Maslow defined this state as "self-actualization" - the highest level of being.

It feels as if so many of us are out of balance on the working-to-live side of the equation. Although a few are really going for it, living their work to its fullest; far too many people are stuck in the steady, depressing rhythm of stressful ho-hum work. As Joseph Campbell reminded us, "Work can be a life-draining affair." How many of us leave the workplace telling ourselves "Whoa…that was an awesome day. I'd like to do that again tomorrow!"

I find that to get life out of our work, it helps to inspire ourselves. Inspire comes from ancient Latin and means to "breathe life into." The best way to inspire ourselves is with a better story - a story where we can make a greater difference - where we bring more spirit to the work we do every day. I encourage you to watch the Spirit at Work Webinar I did for HR That Works members.

When it comes to both sides of the equation, we must ask ourselves how to work smarter, not harder. How can we manage our time in a way that generates additional value? I recommend that you study the Time Management Training Module on HR That Works. If you'd like information, just email me at [email protected].

As Depeche Mode sang, "Get the balance right!" When you do, you'll have no doubt about your willingness to work hard, but you'll also become far more excited about the difference you make every day. This holds true whether you're in your 20s and entering the workforce, or in your 60s and contemplating retirement. The last thing you want to do is live a life of regret because you simply put X's across your work calendar. Work to live - and you'll enjoy a work experience without regrets.

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