As of this past Thursday, 26 million people are unemployed. Over the coming weeks and months, this number is likely to increase – along with the number of businesses that will not recover or reopen on the heels of this crisis. Sadly.

In citing these losses, I have been just as guilty as most media outlets when it comes to focusing on the numbers. Taking note of the number of people who’ve lost jobs, and the number of businesses that are temporarily or permanently closed is, indeed, important and necessary. 

But it’s equally important to remember that the numbers represent only part of the story. To limit the discussion just to the numbers can make it seem as though people work simply for money, simply to make a living

Yet, even for some people who find their work soul deadening, they usually endure it for a bigger purpose. 

The Meaning of Work

What the unemployment and closed business numbers fail to tell is what is the deeper meaning of work for the people associated with those lost jobs and closed businesses

  • Were they working so their child/children can get the education they didn’t?
  • Were they working so their child/children can graduate college without the amount of debt they had to take on?
  • Were they working to support their parents or other family members that may live across this country – or in another country?
  • Were they working because what they did helped them make a difference when it comes to social justice or social impact?
  • Were they working to express their creativity?

I am sure I’m missing some other really great examples, but here’s my point: 

When someone loses a job or business, they don’t just lose a source of income. They also lose the chance and “space” (for a period of time, anyway) to express the deeper meaning of why they work. 

How about you? What are the non-monetary reasons for why you work?

Who is your work in service to, professionally? Who do you serve or want to serve?

Who, in your personal life, are you working for? Children, parents, other family members, charitable causes that are important to you?

What relationships does your work enable you to nurture or to develop? After all, we are social beings and work is one outlet for us to be social and to get and give support.

What mission does your work help you to fulfill? 

Moving Forward  

There certainly are a lot of challenges to how we work, right now. Businesses have closed; others are in the midst of a major pivot. 26 million people have lost their jobs. And, unfortunately, we’re just at the beginning of this crisis – with more changes and challenges likely to emerge as time passes. 

Yet, in the midst of it all, your power to (re)design how you work remains intact. Sure, this power may be temporarily diminished for many. But it hasn’t been completely removed.

This is something to remember especially if you’re reading this as one of the recently unemployed, or as a business owner whose had to close their doors – literally (brick and mortar) or figuratively (online). 

Speaking to the unemployed employee for a moment, what are you missing about working right now (aside from income)? 

How could starting or bolstering a side-hustle you already have help you express what you value and connect that to how you’re spending your time?

How could a side-hustle “feed” your bigger purpose of working while you look for full-time employment? 

Like I said last week, COVID-19 has made it crystal clear that having multiple streams of income is no longer optional. It is imperative!

And if you currently have a full-time job, how could a side-hustle “feed” your bigger purpose of working that your current FTE doesn’t?

In what ways could a side-hustle add more variety or complexity to your body of work; what skills could you further develop; in what ways could it ignite more growth?

I ask these questions out of genuine curiosity. Therefore, if you feel led, please send me a DM on IG. I also ask because tapping into the meaning of work via your side-hustle is one of the discussion points for the next Comfort Circle™ dinner. If you’d like to join us, you can RSVP here.

Yes, we all work for money. There’s nothing wrong with that. And yet, I truly believe, we’re meant to work for reasons beyond thriving financially. I bet you work to also:

  • Feed your curiosity
  • Challenge aspects of the status quo you find frustrating
  • Express your creativity
  • Create future opportunities – for yourself and others
  • Feel proud and accomplished
  • Learn, grow and be stimulated
  • Be of service to others
  • Spread a message
  • And so and so on…

So again, I ask: What’s the deeper meaning of why you work?

It may help to write it down because your answer may be just what sustains you as we progress through this crisis. Even if you never lose your job or need to close your business because of. 

Plus, it’s a great question to ask during your next Zoom “Happy Hour” gathering. 🙂 Who knows you may learn something about your friends and family you didn’t know!

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