According to more than 40 Gallup studies, three-quarters of us are disengaged from our jobs. And more than 50% of employees are currently searching for new employment opportunities.
It’s odd that we spend most of our waking hours at work – in occupations often chosen by our younger selves – and yet seldom ask ourselves how we got there or what our occupations really mean.
When we meet someone new, for instance, the question we most frequently ask – after discerning where they’re from and whether we have any common acquaintances – is what he or she does. Our work, to a great extent, defines us.
It wasn’t always this way. Three hundred years ago, Voltaire argued that work exists to save us from three great evils: boredom, poverty and vice. But, as a society, we have since put our belief in two great ideas: romantic love and meaningful work.
Historically, our faith in these grew up together. We started to think that we should marry for love and not necessity at roughly the same time we started to believe that we should work not only for money but for self-fulfillment.
These are two beautiful ideals, but rarely does either go long without hitting a rough patch.
When we are without work – as tens of millions of Americans are today – we lose more than income; we are cut off from an identity. We can’t explain any more what we do – and hence who we are.”