Work Is Hard

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“It’s not supposed to be fun, that’s why they call it work.”

Show of hands: how many of you have heard that before? It’s one of the rules about work that we need to break. Many of us have all kinds of similar thoughts about what it should or shouldn’t be like for us to do the work that we do. These rules can keep us cut off from the work that we really long to be a part of. They keep us stuck, unhappy, and unsure of what to do next.

The things that bring you joy are meaningful. Work that moves you is fun to be a part of, and we all want our work to be fun, right?

But let’s not go crazy here.

Work is hard, even meaningful work.

The difference is in the way that your work is hard. If your work is hard because it requires you to stretch, risk, and grow it is a good thing! Like a good workout routine, if it’s not challenging, it’s not worth doing. But if your work is hard because it is sucking the life out of you, unhealthy, and not allowing you to bring who you are to what you do it is a bad thing.

Let’s look at the difference between the two:

Working hard for something that matters

If your work is in service of a meaningful impact then it will be hard, but when you catch glimpses of your impact it is rewarding, satisfying, and even fun. There’s a counterpoint of hard work and rewarding progress. This work is characterized by moments that move you, where you feel deeply connected to the things you’re a part of.

Pursuing your passion should be hard work. The very word passion is a derivative from the latin word for suffering. The two go hand in hand. If your work is meaningful, if you’re chasing after a dream and a passion, you will suffer for it. But the vision that brought you to the work gives you reason to stick through the hard work.

You need to work hard. You may not enjoy parts of it. But it’s worth it because you’re making a difference that matters. It’s worth it because you have good reason to be doing the work and staying at it. No work is fun all the time, but hard work in service of a passion and an impact is rich and satisfying.

Working hard for something that doesn’t matter

If you’re working hard at a job that isn’t fulfilling, it will be the opposite of fun. You dread it. There will be parts of yourself that feel like they’re dying— and they very well may be. This is because they are parts of yourself that really want to be expressed and articulated. They want you to do something with them, but the job may not allow it.

This is a different kind of hard work. This is painful work.

No matter what, work will be hard. But there are different kinds of hard.

If it’s work worth doing, it’s worth the hard work.[tweet that]

If it’s work worth doing, it will be life giving in spite of the difficulty. If it’s work worth doing, you will have satisfaction in it.

Work is hard. But the right work is more than just hard.

In the comments, I’d love to know how you feel about hard work for a purpose/passion and work being hard and passionless. How have you experienced each? What are your cues that you’re doing one or the other? Click here to comment!

Dan Cumberland is on a mission to push you into the places meaning, life, & work intersect. He is the author of The Meaning Manifesto. Read more about him here, and connect with him on facebook and twitter.

There Are 2 Comments On This Post.

  1. Well, I just wrote about hard work on my blog. 🙂 It’s highly underrated. However, there is a fine balance between work that makes you miserable but pays well and work you love but does not pay well. I’ve done both. Right now I’m in a happy middle.

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