01st of July, 2018. Everyone is familiar with the phrase ‘work experience’ that we write in our resume in order to give a detailed account of the positions and the tasks we have performed. But how much do we realize the momentum hidden in these words?
We have linked the term ‘work’ with good and bad moments; obligations and commitments, stressful situations and failures, success and rewards, moments of injustice, career milestones and then the champion word that -sooner or later- comes to our mind: routine.
How about ‘experience’? Apart from the knowledge or skill in a particular job or activity, which we have gained through the years, experience is a state of having been deeply affected through direct observation, participation and perception of something we personally encountered, undergone, or lived through. Having said that, how many of us are committed to our work and are emotionally and cognitively involved, do we actually utilize our skills and competences through the challenges and threats of our work environment, how many of us perceive our job positions as opportunities for development and self-improvement that will lead to both our professional and personal excellence. Yes. Take it as a fact. Work contributes greatly to our personal development. Since most of us spend more time working than doing anything else, we should use this time constructively. This (un)certain time occupies a large part of our lives; therefore we should manage it as a valuable asset. Most people don’t love their jobs. In fact, many studies show that only about 1 in 5 people really enjoy their jobs, about 1 in 5 actively dislikes their jobs, and the rest are fairly neutral on the topic. In a survey of 12,000 professionals by the Harvard Business Review, half said they felt their job had no “meaning and significance,” and an equal number were unable to relate to their company’s mission, while another poll among 230,000 employees in 142 countries showed that only 13% of workers actually like their job. This seems unfortunate thinking of how much time is spent aimlessly.
If these thoughts reflect any kind of concern in you, then each time you use the phrase ‘work experience’ you should ask yourself, how do you experience your work; passively or aesthetically?
The word aesthetic is derived from the Greek word αἰσθητικός (aisthetikos, meaning “sensitive, sentient, pertaining to sense perception”), which in turn was derived from αἰσθάνομαι (aisthanomai, meaning “I perceive, feel, sense” and related to αἴσθησις (aisthēsis, “sensation”). Aesthetic involves beauty and people’s appreciation of beautiful things. It is the concept of beauty itself. It is the knowledge derived from our senses.
The aesthetic experience is a pleasurable and desirable experience in which your senses are operating at their peak. It is an experience which gives life worth and meaning. When we are present in the current moment, when we are resonating with the excitement of the moment, when we are fully alive, no matter under what condition we are under either working, travelling or enjoying family moments, only then we experience life.
It is necessary to connect aesthetic pleasure with the emotions and with the contemplation of our work and our intellect feeling, in order to know how it helps to educate our character and personality. Although the main function of working is obligations and commitments, aesthetic pleasure can help to achieve the right dispositions and to learn good models of conduct in a process of intellectual and emotional self-understanding, continuous improvement and persistence of will in obtaining the optimal quality of spiritual, mental, physical, and material being. Aristotle, one of the most famous Ancient Greek philosophers and a proponent of the Aesthetics, made it clear through his writings ‘Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work’ and ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”. In other words, working through aesthetic experience leads to personal continuity, transformation and interaction; it literally expresses a holistic view of our business and personal life and asserts that without engaging the emotions and the intellect feeling it is impossible to keep your life balance.
I am sure there are many articles with many tips and tricks of how to stop being bored, static or unhappy at work. I have none to share with you because I don’t believe in tricks or tips. I believe in people and the uniqueness of every person. After all, we are the only writers of our own story. We are responsible for the choices we make, the decisions we take and the life we experience. However, what I can share are the three ways I have chosen to experience working aesthetically.
I transform working to learning. I have never performed my duties and responsibilities with one hand and half my brain, mainly due to self respect and to my strong belief in my personal skills and potentials. I have always the feeling of being a vital part of an organization that without me it would not work properly. Consequently, I have always been at an optimum level of engagement: never under-challenged, always over-challenged. When my learning curve flattens out at work, I always think about what I might learn that would make my job more interesting and make me more useful to the organization, but always aiming to personal development. The times that did not work it was a sign that I had to ‘close the circle’ and open a new one.
I work hard. This may seem entirely contrary to common-sense expectation, but it is part of the continuous challenge. You may feel like you’re being clever to get away with clocking in at 9, leaving at 5 and taking a long break – but over time, only doing what is needed and never make a leap by exceeding your own expectations, is likely to backfire and will lead to opposite results to the one that was intended.
I keep in my mind two significant elements, (originally expressed by the author Daniel Pink in his book Drive): ‘purpose’ and ‘mastery’ that I find most powerful and effective motivators: finding meaning in what I do, and always perform excellent. By working passively, I would deprive myself of both.
Make the leap!