Are You Passionate or A Mercenary?
“What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.” ― A.A. Milne
There are mercenaries in our midst. Winnie The Pooh is not one of them.
Ric Taylor of touchbasecounseling.com, told me about employees who have risen to a comfortable level, are bored, but don’t want to make a change because of the paycheck. Ric says that some don’t even realize they could make a change. So, they stay in an unfulfilling career. Ric called people like this who work only for a paycheck “mercenaries.”
This got me wondering about my clients. One is a non-governmental organization called Water For People. WFP’s mission is to bring water and sanitation to everyone in the world forever. WFP’s staff can’t help but be passionate about its work. They see how they are changing lives everyday. If WFP is at all like other non-profits, salaries aren’t high, yet, when you walk into WFP’s offices, passion and commitment are palpable. (Check out WFP at waterforpeople.org.)
Of course many people have to work at uninspiring jobs just to survive. Yet, we’ve all encountered individuals in minimum wage jobs that are passionate about making the customer’s experience a remarkable one. My sight-limited sister had trouble locating her credit card in the dark recesses of her purse one afternoon at the grocery. The checker smiled and said to her in a cheery voice, “Don’t worry about it. I’m here until midnight.”
Which would you choose? To pop out of bed every morning feeling passionate about your work or trudging in to another day of dissatisfaction? You may not have a choice in where you work or even your tasks, but you do have a choice when it comes to your attitude. Remember Pooh? Every day is his favorite day.
Mercenary is a strong term. After all, you may not be in the position to change to a job you’re passionate about. If that’s the case, drum up some fervor for what you do.
“If I do not endow my work with meaning, no one will ever be able to do it for me.” Sara Ban Breathnach
Here are some ways to take your job and love it:
1. Pinpoint how what you do helps other people or makes the world a better place. A research hospital was having high turnover in the housekeeping department. The doctors and scientists had little turnover. The doctors and scientists had lofty missions. They could see patients improve. They could have scientific breakthroughs that would impact people around the world. But the housekeepers’ jobs were monotonous drudgery. How passionate can you be about mops and Pine Sol? When the housekeepers were guided to realize that without them the hospital couldn’t function, the doctors and scientists couldn’t do their work and patients couldn’t heal, they saw that they were indispensable. Turnover was reduced.
2. Find your passion. You may have to dig deep, but what do you LOVE about your work?
3. Nurture optimism, energy and health. It’s hard to be passionate about work when you’re tired, strung out and hanging by your fingernails.
4. Take risks. Tap into new ways of doing things. Shake things up.
5. Keep learning. You’ll gain job skills and knowledge that will benefit you in this job or the next. Plus, learning is exhilarating.
6. Teach others. Be a mentor. Share your expertise.
7. Don’t be a mercenary in the rest of your life. Are you putting in time but not passion with your family, friends and community? As theologian Edwin Louis Cole said, “You don’t drown by falling in the water. You drown by staying there.”
8. Be on a Mitzvah (Good Deed) Mission. Be determined to make someone else’s day better. The checker at the grocery made my sister laugh. This reduced her anxiety and she was able to find her credit card. The checker laughed, too, and received a big dose of praise and appreciation.
9. Make conscious choices about how you respond to life. Anne Frank, hiding from the Nazis, could have become a mercenary. She could have shut down and simply existed while waiting for the inevitable end. Instead she wrote in her famous diary, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”