The Meaning of Work [Part 1]

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Why do we work?

I’ve toyed with this question a few times in the last 4 years. Why do I get up every morning, take the mundane drive to the office, and sit at a desk for roughly 9 hours?

Back in 2011, in order to graduate from university I was required to complete a 1 month internship at a company of my choice. With a keen and uncanny love for any thing sports related, I knew I wanted to intern at an agency that focused on sports marketing and sponsorship. Fortunately, I landed an internship at an indutsry leading Sports Sponsorship agency in Fourways, Johannesburg.

Two weeks into my internship, I cracked the nod of a couple important people and I was employed as a Junior Strategist. [Praising hands emoji]

Determined to show-off my capabilities, I worked hard, throwing myself into tasks and adding value wherever I could. 9 months later I was rewarded with a promotion as a Strategist. Life was good. I was happy, high on life, loving my job and eager to carry on climbing up the agency ladder.

For two years I continued to work hard, taking on more work than I was initially tasked with and taking initiative wherever I could. But things felt different, it felt harder to do simple, daily tasks and work began to feel more like a mission, instead of a motivation.

So what changed?

I lost sight of my why. Or rather, I had the wrong why to start off with in the first place.

This became a very difficult question to ask and answer for myself. And one that needed some serious introspection.

The first question I asked myself was: why did I start working?

Let me try and unpack my series of why’s:

Initially I started working because I needed a job. And jobs were difficult to come by, especially in South Africa’s current market situation.

1st Why: Because of job security.

Secondly, I wanted to learn and grow into a better strategist. And to do this I needed experience in a work environment.

2nd Why: Because of knowledge.

And lastly the paycheque at the end of every month.

After landing that first paycheque, money became a huge driver for why I carried on working, irrespective of whether I was happy or not, as long as I was getting paid.

3rd Why: Cash cash monies and everything in-between.

At this stage I felt a paradigm shift within myself. Unwillingly, or rather subconsciously I allowed myself to become more motivated by the paycheque instead of the passion.

So what happened next?

I became even less motivated to work, to take intitiative, to do things for myself. I became a robot. Wake up, get dressed, drive to work, do the work, leave work, sleep. Repeat.

I let this monotonous routine consume me for the next 12 months.

For the next 12 months I stopped caring. I stopped looking after myself. And let myself fall apart both emotionally and physically.

All because I temporarily lost my why.

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In part 2, I’ll explore how I rediscovered my why, and how that changed my perspective on work altogether.