In a world that seems increasingly polarised, all sorts of events incite people to declare for Wellbeing, Creativity and Love – or Destruction, Control and Division. It’s as if Dark Forces have been unleashed on our economics, politics and environment, and Positive Forces are rising to meet them with creative responses.
We are all part of this epic dance, whether or not we choose to be. How we live contributes daily in three key ways: our spending, our human interactions and our work. In this blog, I’m concerned primarily with the latter.
Work has moved a long way from the days when small groups of humans worked spontaneously and collaboratively the wellbeing of the group. For eons, work was simply a response to need: a meal to procure or prepare; shelter to be found or built; a thorn to be pulled from a foot; children to tend; celebratory or solemn songs to sing. Each individual would contribute what they could; what they did best. As in an ecosystem, everyone would have their niche. Minds and bodies were active and responsive.
Today, work is perceived and experienced as something very different. For many, it’s sitting all day at a computer, in an environment we don’t like, doing tasks we don’t enjoy, for outcomes we don’t care about, ultimately benefiting people we don’t even know. It’s making, moving or selling items that damaged people, animals or planet in their making, and end up in landfill. It’s producing or serving food that isn’t nutritious, to people we don’t care about. It’s burning fossil fuels to heat, transport or construct. It’s struggling to educate or care for others, with tiny funding, but enormous control and bureaucracy.
In a western society largely free from starvation, predation and disease, work could and should be a joyful activity: one that benefits the world in some way and draws on our best skills. Instead, many find themselves bored and under-utilised, or anxious and stressed. Today’s work culture robs too many workers of their dignity and creativity; steals their souls and uses them to feed Destruction. Life on Earth is in great need, but most people’s energy and creativity is diverted to profit-making.
Fortunately, we can create a very different reality. There is plenty of positive work to do, and people everywhere are responding. They no longer just ‘look for a job’ but ask instead, what do I love doing? What’s my unique gift? What do I really care about? How do I want to make a difference? What’s the best way I can do that?
Healthy alternatives are arising, such as workers’ co-operatives, social enterprises and ethical businesses. Sole traders or small independent companies are networking and collaborating, building satisfying careers and rich, vibrant local economies, and when all goes well, making a decent living too. And in bigger companies, people are asking – how can we do business more ethically, equitably and sustainably?
In such turbulent times, our choice of work makes such a difference: not just to us personally, but also to our communities and to our world. Some find it hard to know what they’ve got to offer. Others know what they’d love to do, but can’t find a way to do it. Creating a life of good work is seldom seamless and straightforward; it usually requires patience, courage, support, collaboration and experimentation. But through these struggles can come great personal growth and satisfaction, strong relationships, and lives that are contributing to, or enhancing, the wellbeing of the world.
How do you want your day to be? What do you want your work to achieve? What do you want your life to mean?
These questions and others I regularly explore with people in coaching sessions, and such themes form the basis of discussion in workshops. My own work is helping others find and do work that’s good for society, good for the living world and good for their own souls. In these times of shift, such work feels more important than ever, and can also be deeply rewarding.
– Gill Coombs, gillcoombs.co.uk