Ten Unexpected Ways Your Work Can Enhance Your Sense of Well-Being

Attitudes about work vary widely across cultures and over the course of a life span. Depending on where you live on the planet and what phase of life you are currently experiencing, a large portion of your identity may be derived from your occupation. Your career may be a key component of your self-image, therefore your inability to successfully navigate a 40 to 50 year occupational landscape can be major source of emotional distress.

Even in situations where a traditional job does not consume a large portion of the day, there are always activities that occupy your time and contribute in some way to your sense of well-being.

Here are ten unexpected or underappreciated ways that your work can enhance your well-being

  1. Work Can Give You a Paycheck So You Can Stay Alive

If the primary reason that you show up to work everyday is so that you and yours can continue to eat and have have shelter for the foreseeable future, then you are not alone. Surveys suggest that as as many as 80% of households in the U.S. are two or three paychecks financial catastrophe such not being able to pay for food, utilities, or rent.

If you are among the 80% your circumstances may seem scary and discouraging. However, if you are reading this and you are alive and you have plan to stay that way, then you have something to start with.

Sure, it may be worth taking a look at some choices that you can make going forward to create a little breathing room for your family. But you should still approach the opportunity and paycheck you have with care and gratitude.

2. Work Can Give You a Chance to Learn New Skills

If you are fortunate enough to have a job that is challenging and provides opportunities for you to expand your knowledge and skills, that is something to be truly grateful for. People pay tens of thousands of dollars to continue their education, but if you approach career development correctly, you can actually get paid build a great skill set.

Your potential growth, however, is not automatic. You have to be intentional and maintain a high level of awareness to make the most of the teachable moments you encounter. Just because you spend five years on a job doesn’t mean you have five years of experience. It could be that you repeat your first year experience five times, and fail to truly grow.

Even when you decide (or are forced) to explore new opportunities, your skills and experience go with you.
3. Work Can Give You a Chance to Contribute to Society
It is easy to view your day-to-day task in a vacuum. You may not often stop to think about the impact that you have on others through your labor. Whether you are investing your labor at home or in the job market, you work is a part of the system that creates the abundance from which everyone draws.

The positive feelings that arise when one makes a contribution to society are not reserved for people who achieve fame or accolades for their work. Whether you are in a warehouse, on a factory floor, in an office, a laboratory, a school…your piece of work is a part of a larger whole.

It is worthwhile to aspire to great things and to make a big impact on society. But you don’t have to wait until you have achieved your ultimate goal to acknowledge the everyday contributions you make.

4. Work is a Place to Make Social Connections
One of your basic needs is to feel a sense of belonging. While there are some necessary boundaries that may need to be honored when it comes to creating and maintaining relationships in the workplace, it is natural that you gradually build relationships with the people with whom you spend so much of your time. There are built-in points of common interest and experience that can serve as a springboard to conversation and connection.
5. Work Can Provide Joy and Meaning
With the right mindset you can experience really deep engagement in the tasks associated with your work. It could be that you are doing work that you love, or that you feel a deep sense of alignment between your work and your values. Or it could be that you are just gritting your teeth and getting something done that has to be done.

In either case, there is potential to experience the positive emotions that often arise when you are fully present with a task and operating in a state of flow. There is nothing inherent in any tasks that dictates how you must feel about doing it. Washing dishes, digging ditches, coding software, or conducting an orchestra can all be pathways to joy in the moment.
6. Work Can Provide Provide Structure
While you may fantasize about having creative space and time freedom to do what whatever we like, you may come to realize that without some sort of structure you aren’t able to get anything done. Having a routine in place to show up at certain place, at a certain time, removes the “negotiations” with yourself that lead to procrastination and being overwhelmed.

Humans are wired to thrive within the cycles that occur in the environment. Cycles of light and dark, and seasons of varying weather have informed cycles of labor of rest. The time of day and year signalled to ancestors what type of labor was required.

Technology has allowed us to override some of the natural cues. You have access to light and warmth 24/7. So you are responsible for re-creating the structures of labor and renewal that enable you to engage in project of thriving. If you struggle with creating structure for yourself, the ritual of “going to work” can support you.
7. Work is a Place to Struggle
Earlier I mentioned the value of growing through increasing to your portfolio of skills and competencies. Another way that you may be able to grow at work is through the struggle of finishing difficult tasks. The systems of accountability that are in place in a work environment can support you as you build the habit of finishing what you start, even when it gets tough.

It is only through struggles and challenges that you will have a chance to uncover your potential. A difficult work experience can bring out the best in you and accomplishments are much sweeter when you have to stretch to meet the challenge.
8. Work Can Help You Become a Better Communicator
One specific skill that you will have the opportunity to develop as you progress in your career, is the ability to communicate. In many cases your career success will be impacted directly by your ability to convey ideas and collaborate with others through your spoken and written communication.

The more responsibility you take for being understood, the better your outcomes will be. From negotiating the offer on your next home to building a deeper connection with your teenager, the ability to communicate well is a skill that enhances almost every aspect of your life.

9. Work Can Give You Space To Create Opportunities for Others
Whether you are a business owner or a leader or manager in an organization, the work that you do creates opportunities for other people to experience all the life-enhancing benefits we’ve been discussing. As an engaged leader you build trust by guiding employees towards opportunities for growth and connection. Being trusted and appreciated by others has powerful, positive impact on your own emotional well being.

10.Work Can Enhance Your Social Status
Even if you are not the type to fixate on titles and status, other people are. In some cases your occupation can place you in a unique position to advocate for others. The respect that comes with the title that you hold, or the recognition you have received not only opens new doors for you, it also gives you the power to open doors for others. Working hard to achieve success and then giving back to others creates a virtual cycle that constantly opens new doors.

Depending on your personal values and the phase of life and career you are currently experiencing, some of these mindset tools may apply more than others. Whenever you start to feel disillusioned with the way you are investing your labor, you can use this list to return to a place of gratitude and use that positive energy renewal to take the next step on your journey.