What really matters to you?

Ask people that question, and you’re likely to get a quick “Spending time with my family” or “Helping others help themselves” or something along those lines. If you ask those people to really think about it, you will some much more detailed, personal responses.

It is very unlikely, however, that you will ever hear someone answer that question with, “Go to work everyday and only get paid for 8 hours even though I actually work 10 or more.” Yet that is exactly how many people spend their time, going to work doing something they don’t enjoy and just enduring it until they can get away.

In a recent post I wrote, “if the results of our work is not art, what is the point.” No matter the job, each individual has the ability (and I think responsibility to themselves) to leave their mark, to leave something “good” of themselves. A legacy, if you will.

In the soon to be released What is Your Life’s Work? : Answer the BIG Question About What Really Matters…and Reawaken the Passion for What You Do, author Bill Jensen explores this question in great detail. From the our life’s work site:

Imagine having a profound, plain-spoken conversation with your loved ones. You speak with absolute conviction: “This is what I stood for, believed in, struggled with, and accomplished. This is my life’s work, and what I want to be remembered for.”

These conversations are captured as letters from parents to children, or friends to friends. You can download a couple of sections to get an idea of what is in the book. For example:

Never Hang Back, Wedge Yourself Forward

Years ago, as a widowed mother with two young children, the idea of work took the form of a cage or a boa constrictor: I have to support my children. I have to work, unceasingly, for the rest of my life because no one else is going to take care of us!

But I love work. I hope you will too. Not for the money or the perks, but because it offers a place to express yourself to a captive audience.

Work is a verb, not a place. A business is simply where I go to do my work, but I’m working most all the time. This matters a lot: Identify your God-given talent, cherish it, refine it, and then find a way to get paid for it for as long as you need to.

The most important thing is connecting with a place that is big enough for your talents, with people you enjoy and can learn from. No matter what your responsibilities, use every opportunity to wedge your talents into the forefront. Make suggestions. Design a solution and put it in front of the CEO as “just something to think about.” Invent the need for what you deliver. Express yourself. Chances are that people will start to pay attention, especially since so many people just hang back and do what they’re told.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Good advice, indeed.