Published in The Attention Architect, a newsletter on LinkedIn, August 19, 20 22
We hear a lot about the Great Resignation, but I've been thinking more about something I call the Great Reorientation, where previously career-obsessed folks find themselves rethinking the focus and direction of their lives.
Most professionals I meet have always had the drive to succeed, but where things get murky and confusing for them is figuring out if their motivation is about self-worth or self-fulfillment. And the pandemic has shone a bright light on that existential question for us to reflect on daily.
On one level, many people feel guilty about pulling back from work and not wanting to climb the corporate ladder as ferociously as they did before. But on another level, they've had no choice but to change their daily routines because the standard patterns of our lives have been so radically altered that we're not sure where we stand or sit anymore—at the corporate headquarters or in our home office. It's physically and emotionally disorienting.
The pandemic has forced us to ask ourselves what a successful life looks like, which is healthy for us to consider. However, I am not sure we could've ever stopped or even slowed down the maddening work-life pace enough to consider other options than the self-sacrificial and often self-destructive path we were on. But the last two and half years have given us time to pause and reflect on these matters of life and death in more detail.
I don't buy into the accusation that "nobody wants to work these days," as Kim Kardashian meant or didn't mean to say. It's in our nature and DNA to work. To create, to have a vocation. But I don't think we can do it as easily today without more meaning and purpose.
As we've all learned over the last decade, there are many different ways to make money in this era, not all of which have to do with climbing the corporate ladder or working with or for A-holes.
If companies wish to corral people back to the office, they need to understand that it has to come with more meaning and purpose than before.
I am fortunate in that the field of architecture is about tapping into one's creativity and expressing your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs through your work. It's not a job, as much as it's a calling. But I can't tell you how many of my friends do jobs they don't love or that don't involve any level of personal expression or creativity. You can do that for a week or month, but not 30 years. When I ask my friends why they continue to do something they don't love, or that doesn't feed their soul, they often tell me, "for the benefits," but they don't consider that it comes at the cost of their well-being.
The pain and solution of our work crisis today revolves around meaning. Find something meaningful to do with your time, and you'll have a much more natural inclination to do it for the passion and pride of doing a great job.
But doing work without meaning is a recipe for dissatisfaction and depression.
Instead of looking at this time as a period of confusion, why not use this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reorient yourself around doing something you love to do that feeds your soul's quest for meaning?