Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fantasy of Future Significance

I’ve learned a lot over the past sixteen months being out in the local workforce. I’ve worked with small and big businesses, the most profitable as well as nonprofits, and unknown and well-known brands (including one of the world’s most recognized brands). While working to best serve these organizations, I’ve also endeavored to learn. Of course I was learning the business, but I was as focused on learning the people; I wanted to better understand the people who are leading and working in these organizations.

One of my surprise findings was a common story; I call it the Fantasy of Future Significance. It commonly goes something like this: This is a good job and all, but after I’ve made enough money I’ll retire early and then have a really significant career. Then they would talk about working for a nonprofit or otherwise having some sort of second career focused on doing good.

After they have done well, then they would do good.

I found it to be a sad story for a couple of reasons:
1.       It wasn’t likely to happen, and

2.       They weren’t finding their work to be significant now.
It seems to be that most people either let that aspiration wear off, or they take that aspiration to their grave. While that sort of life change is possible, it remains rare. It is hard to find a place to restart after a successful career, and if that starting point is found it is hard to take that step. Then, for those who do find a place and take the step… it is my observation that they still remain as disappointed. In lots of cases they seem even more miserable because they thought they found the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow, only to find that they still face the same level of frustration at work.
I was surprised to find so many people, successful people, so dissatisfied because they found their current work insignificant (even though they had a great deal of responsibility in jobs that lots of people would be thrilled to have). They were making money, both for the company and for themselves, but they didn’t seem to feel like they were making a significant difference.
When they got to know my story (coming from a career in Christian Higher Ed), I think they found me to be an enigma… since I was on their turf, but coming from the sort of place they fantasized about someday landing. Furthermore, I was finding my work on their turf to be truly significant.

As a pastor serving a congregation in the midst of a sea of people like these, I’m convinced that our ministry must include a focus on helping people connect their work to God’s work. I’m convinced that the only way to truly find significance in our work (our lives) is to find that significance in God. Our church must do a better job helping people arrive at that significance.
So… one of ways I hope to make that connection is with what I write here. I’m hoping to explore this topic and use this blog as a space that invites an open conversation. Stay tuned in the days and weeks ahead!

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