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Self-Care At Work: Tips for Cultivating Passion and Meaning

by Lynda Monk

I was listening to the CBC radio and a local (BC) kindergarten teacher was interviewed as a result of winning the Teacher of the Year Award granted by a Canadian family magazine. As I listened, I was moved by her passion for her work.

Christine Maslach, a researcher in the area of burnout prevention, found that the more passionate you are about your work, the less stress you are likely to experience and the greater capacity you have for managing the stress that inevitably exists. With your self-care, well-being and career satisfaction in mind, here are a few tips for connecting with your passion at work:

Engage with genuine enthusiasm -- the teacher being interviewed, as mentioned above, spoke with such enthusiasm for her students, their potential, and her role as a kindergarten teacher. You could hear her smile as she spoke. The interviewer asked her how long she had been teaching, she said, "sixteen years." What part of your work are you extremely enthusiastic about? What gets you excited within your work? What could you get excited about?

Recognize the positive impact of your work on others -- most of you reading this are in service to others in the work that you do. In the case of this teacher, she recognized that who and how she is as a kindergarten teacher is setting a stage for lifelong learning among her young students. She clearly pays attention to the influence she is having on her students by being aware that her love for teaching and learning can become her students' love of the same in their lives. She suggested: "if you are bored as a teacher with what you are doing, your students are going to be bored by you." What impact do you have on those you work with either through who you are, what you do and/or how you do your work? What do you inspire in others? How do you inspire others? Who inspires you?

Speak positively even about the challenges within your work -- this teacher acknowledged that there are great challenges in her role, for example, she spoke of the negative implications of government funding cuts within the education system and to her students in particular. She named these challenges not from a perspective of complaining, but rather naming the challenge and urging parents to use the power of their voices to advocate for change. What challenges do you face in your work? How do you bring optimism and hope forward to address these challenges?

Exude a sense of pride -- this teacher acknowledged the wonderful school, great colleagues and terrific students that comprise her workplace. She offered gratitude and inspiration through her language, her choices regarding her focus (i.e. focused on the positive) and she exuded a genuine pride throughout this interview. What are you most proud of within your work and your work environment? How do you communicate your pride and gratitude with others? How do you draw out feelings of pride and accomplishment in others?

We all spend many of our waking hours working. Your work matters! How you feel about your work matters too. Regardless of what you do, it is important to align with what is meaningful, positive and possible in your work as this has a direct impact on your level of satisfaction and feelings of overall well-being in work and life.

David Whyte, the author of Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity (2001) offers the following definition -- n. "Work is an opportunity for discovering and shaping; the place where the self meets the world." He suggests; "Work is not a static endpoint or a mere exercise in providing, but a journey and a pilgrimage in which the core elements of our being are tested in the world."

May your work be a place of deep satisfaction for yourself, while all at once, making a difference in the lives of others.

Lynda Monk may be contacted at

Lynda Monk, MSW, RSW, MSW educates and supports helping professionals, healers, and leaders to radically reduce stress, prevent burnout and create a well balanced life through the art of self-care. Lynda is the founder of Creative Wellness, an arts-based life and health coaching business that offers signature group coaching programs, replenishing retreats, training, speaking services, information products and holistic wellness resources. Lynda publishes a free bi-weekly Creative Wellness Tips & Tools Museletter offering you both inspiration and information for self-care in mind, body, heart and spirit in both life and work


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