[NOTE: This post was updated February 2018]
In his book, What is Your Life’s Work? Bill Jensen asks people to write a letter to a loved one about the meaning and importance of work. Specifically, he wanted them to think about this question:
“What is the single most important insight about work that you want to pass on to your kids? Or to anyone you truly care about?”
In the course of writing these letters, people experienced something remarkable — clarity about what “it” is that’s most important to them and the power of following their dreams.
“There are only 1440 minutes in every day. No do-overs. Time stolen from you at work means less time for whatever really matters to you…We must all be respectful of how work uses the precious time in people’s lives — as a guiding principle in whatever [we] do every day” (Jensen, 2005, p.9).
“I’m a workaholic. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t striving for full-throttle success. As it turns out, I failed in one critical area. I had turned my back on life.” (A Letter Writer quoted in Jensen’s book)
According to over 40 Gallup studies, about 75% of workers are disengaged from their jobs. And based on a recent U.S. Job Retention Survey, 75% of all employees are now searching for new employment opportunities. Jensen also found, in a New American Dream Survey, that more than four out of every five of us (83%) wish we had more of what really matters in life (Jensen, 2005, p.5).
In the past 20 years, Jensen has interviewed and surveyed over 400,000 people in more than 1,000 companies. What he found was that “[m]ost of us already know what really matters. We just let all the daily excuses and conflicting priorities cloud our judgment…Yet the people who are truly focused on what matters rarely have this problem. They know how to listen to themselves – how to quiet all the outside noise long enough to hear their own heartbeat and their own wisdom” (Jensen, 2005, p.16).
Jensen (2005) recommends several things:
- Face what you fear
- Get grounded, there are others like you
- Let go, nobody’s watching
- Suspend judgment, others’ “aha” moments can reveal a lot
- Find your passion, write it down
- Laugh at your own excuses
- Rewrite the script, because you can
“[T]he most important quality in a candidate is passion for what he does and who he is. This passion will drive people to succeed even when obstacles occur in the workplace…For my money, give me someone with passion. We can teach him the rest.” (Mike Grabowski, quoted in What is Your Life’s Work?)
Wishing you good work life, health, and well-being.
Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership + Talent Development Advisor
Jensen, B. (2005). What is Your Life’s Work?: Answer the BIG Question About What Really Matters…and Reawaken the Passion for What You Do. New York, NY: HarperCollins.