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  • You’re the Master

    In the new year, people often make resolutions. “This is the year,” we often tell ourselves, “for a big change!”

    Perhaps the most common NYR: to find a new job. A better job. Or just a job. Of course, in our current economy, this resolution may be somewhat tempered by the cold reality of less hiring. Still, employees may aspire to something… better.

    It’s easy to conclude that the problem may be your employer. Just as there is no perfect mate or perfect marriage, there is no perfect workplace, and there is no perfect boss. If you can land another offer, it’s possible that a different job and a different company culture may suit you better—in which case, go for it, congratulations, and I wish you every success!

    But here’s my news flash for the New Year: creating your own greater job-satisfaction may be possible right where you are. It requires that you see yourself differently, and see your job differently. When you do this, it is possible that you will create different results in the corporate culture around you.

    A woman I know, a writer, spent many years working in ad agencies and PR agencies. She described feeling like a large, agile, trained, captive killer whale at a place like Sea World. “I live in a cement pond and perform tricks for food,” she told me one day over a martini or two.

    You may know how this story ends, as these stories always end: the trained killer whale bit her trainer in two. Bad whale.

    This is the problem with how most of us think of our jobs. We are conditioned to seek external rewards and incentives.

    But get this: Dan Pink, author of four best-selling books on motivation, says “Tangible rewards tend to have a substantially negative effect on intrinsic motivation.” Money, in particular, he says, tends to de-motivate. It’s never enough.

    In fact, Pink says “meaning is the new money.” What people really need in order to achieve and succeed is a sense of connection to something beyond self-interest. Something more meaningful.

    In 2012, try looking at your work with new eyes. The word that’s got my mind buzzing is “autotelic,” meaning that the activity is its own reward, and the goal is self-fulfilling.

    We’ve all had the experience of having our restaurant meal served by someone who genuinely seems to take joy in bringing us our food. Sure, this inspires us to tip well. But the truth is, people who love their work aren’t doing it for the tips.

    We’ve all felt the difference of being greeted and assisted by a customer service person who genuinely addresses our concerns, attentively and effectively. Their task may sound like a nightmare job: handling our luggage at the airport, or working at the DMV. Again, this is because whoever that person is finds some intrinsic pay-off in the job itself. These people work with pride, and a sense of joy.

    Do you?

    If you’re disconnected from your job, it’s human nature to say that this is because it’s not a good job. So, you play Farmville instead of working. You re-tweet and text and FB instead of working. Maybe you, oops, how did that get there?, may even find yourself slipping some office supplies into your gym bag. You paste magazine photos of beaches inside the drawer of your desk, thinking, Some day, some day.

    Some day is now. You may be experiencing disconnection, and dissatisfaction, because you’re waiting for rewards, like my friend Shamu, waiting for a fish to be tossed to her from the side of her sad cement pond.

    Find your meaning now. Where is it? The answer may surprise you.

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