More and more, I’ve come to believe that usefulness is a key ingredient to a happy and fulfilling life. From my own experience, when I feel useful, I am more focused, productive, motivated and self-assured. Even if there’s a struggle involved. If I feel that what I’m struggling for is of use, then vats of commitment and dedication seem to make themselves available. I think usefulness is a feeling that emerges subliminally, but there’s no doubt that we’ve all felt it. In fact, most of us feel it at some point every day. Think of the farmer who is planting crops that will grow and feed. Think of the therapist who is helping someone resolve a difficult issue. Think of the tradesman who is repairing the roof of a house. Think of the teacher who is coaching someone how to use a computer. Think of the photographer who is taking pictures of a couple on their wedding day. Yes. There is no doubt that work and usefulness are inextricably bound. Yet we mustn’t forget that work doesn’t always come in the form of a job. A mother and father raising a child, or a child looking after sick parents, is just as much a form of work. Disagree? Think of it this way; they are exercising their powers towards useful ends . . . isn’t that what work is? Essentially? (And ideally).
In manifold ways, work offers a steady flow of useful energy, consistently providing wellness and regulation for our mind-body. In brief, work is crucial. We need to work. More than that, though, we need to determine what kind of work we find interesting. For when interest and usefulness collide, we feel satisfied with what we’re doing. And let’s not dismiss the importance of satisfaction.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow