Here in the United States we just celebrated Labor Day. It’s a day set aside to honor the working man and woman. Amazingly, it’s been over 130 years since the first Labor Day holiday was celebrated in 1882 in New York City. Who knew? It was first proposed by the Central Labor Union, and the idea spread as more labor organizations joined in setting aside a day to celebrate workers and their work.
In the early years there were parades, followed by speeches by prominent men and women as a way to emphasize the economic and civic significance of the holiday. But what I found fascinating as I read about the beginnings of this holiday was that, in 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday. This day was dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement. Though the way work was defined was much different in the late nineteenth century than how it is today, there was an acknowledgement of a person’s spiritual life.
How times have changed.
Eventually, in 1894, Congress passed legislation that made Labor Day a national holiday. Since then, the way we celebrate has undergone quite a transformation. But the idea of honoring “an honest day’s work” has stayed the same.
And now, it seems, we are coming full circle. We are finding our way back to the idea that the work we do has a purpose beyond putting food on the table and a roof over our heads. The way we interpret that is different than how our great-grandparents did. And the choices we have are vast in comparison. The obstacles are not nearly as insurmountable.
Changing careers, going your own way and starting a business, adding skills or training, taking a detour to travel or study, choosing to work in another country, the opportunities we have to carve out and craft a livelihood that suits us, gives our life meaning, and provides a living as well as an outlet for our creativity are almost endless!
So I want to ask you, is your work a labor of love, or just labor? If it’s not a labor of love, then ask yourself why? What’s holding you back? What’s keeping you from making a living that also makes you a life?
Bring together who you are and what you do. After all, that’s what inspired work is, isn’t it? Doing work you love is about doing work that expresses who you are in this world. And who you are is more than just your skillset or expertise.
Feeling a little unsure about what that means? Doing work that is an expression of who you are? Here’s an exercise you can do to begin to rediscover who you are. Grab a pen and some paper and set aside some uninterrupted time for yourself. Now think back to when you were a young child. What was it that you naturally, easily and effortlessly did? How did you play and interact with your world? Who did you want to be like? What excited you? What frightened you?
For many of us, the last time we openly expressed the essence of our authentic selves was in childhood. As you sit with these questions, begin to write, make lists, doodle, however you feel inclined to capture whatever begins to bubble up from the depths of your heart.
It may feel strange, dangerous, sad, bewildering, intriguing, familiar or something else entirely to step out of the continuum and time walk in this way, getting reacquainted with your child self. You and she are the same beautiful, creative, unique soul. It’s time you got reacquainted.
Begin to rediscover who you are. And you can begin to redefine your work as a labor of love.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can share them below.