The Five W's of Work

Most of us work.

We labor at a job and we hope our paycheck will cover our expenses.

But I've found that it really is important to work to live, rather than the other way around - live to work.

If you are not sure what that means, I am repeating some age-old wisdom that we need to have a full and meaningful life and if we have to work, hopefully whatever we do contributes to that life.

You don't want to work in a dead-end job that you hate and that doesn't fulfill you. Even if it fills your bank account.

With that in mind, let's consider what meaningful work entails. I like using the 5 W's as a guide.

That's right, the Who, What, Where, When and Why.

Who Do You Work For and With

If you are fortunate you get to work with inspiring people and if you have to work for a company or organization with structured management I hope they inspire and motivate.

Nobody likes being micro-managed or not respected for their talents and efforts.

Co-workers can create drama or issues. Teamwork is important, but not everybody is a team player. Look for work that allows for good collaboration.

I also think it is important to do work you believe in.

I found that really important in my teaching career. Teaching is really hard, often frustrating, and frequently under appreciated. But it is such important work.

I got to be around young people and we all learned about life, developed skills, discovered new knowledge and got endlessly surprised. It made it all worthwhile.

What is the Work?

Are you building houses?

Working in the medical field?

Dealing with financial matters?

Selling cars? Raising children?

There are all kinds of jobs and all kinds of work. Find out what you are interested in and what you are good at. Go do that work.

It might not pay what you want or need, but in the long run doing the work you love makes a huge difference.

I worked for many years in the radio broadcasting business. It was really fun! And I enjoyed playing music for listeners and talking about the songs and life.

Later I discovered that the stories people have are fascinating and really important to preserve. I like to write and so being able to interview people about their lives and then write the stories is appealing, albeit hard, work.

I also found out that teaching others is something I am good at. Hence the time I spent in the world of education.

Life story (personal history) doesn't always pay enough to meet my expenses, but I do it because I believe in the value of the work.

I believe I am called to it. I supplement my income by doing other kinds of work that I am good at and it all helps to make ends meet.

This additional work is a sacrifice of my time, but I do it so I can keep doing the work that I love.

You do what you have to.

Where You Work

Some people prefer to work in an office or at a factory or someplace where other employees are laboring.

Other people prefer to be more independent. Some people get to work from home. That was a big shift for a lot of people when the Covid 19 pandemic struck and remote learning became necessary. 

Now it is an accepted way of work for more and more people and companies.

There is also the consideration of where in the world you work. Some people move to a certain city or country for a job. Think about where you want to reside.

The impact on your family is an important consideration.

So, too, are things like culture, entertainment, climate and population.

Weigh those decisions carefully.

When You Work

Part time or full time?

Days or nights?

What about weekends?

9 to 5 is not the only option.

Why You Work

I have already touched on this a bit with some of the other W's. But get down to the real you and figure out the why behind the work.

Are you working to build towards retirement?

Do you work because you want to stay busy?

Are you getting some purpose out of what you do?

We all have reasons for work.

Sometimes they aren't that enjoyable. Maybe you pick up an extra shift to help out the company or a co-worker who needs time off.

If you don't have a "fire in the belly" for your work you might suffer burnout. Figure out what puts a spring in your step.

Also, what is your legacy going to be when it comes to the work you do? Are you leaving the world a better place because of your contributions?

So many do. Inventors, counselors, clergy, health care professionals, teachers, and artists (yes, that includes writers).

I hope the 5 W's of Work gives you pause to consider your work life.

We need your contributions to life and the work you do is ultimately an expression of who you are.