When the mobile workforce began to take shape, we started off working from home. Then, when our cats fell asleep on our keyboards one too many times, we migrated to coffee shops, until the cacophony and endless jittery meetings drove us back home.
And finally, there were co-working spaces.
Co-working spaces are a venue, a community, a culture. We hear about their features: the Wifi, the events, the coffee. We talk about how they're useful and quiet and how we finally have a space to get things done.
We are happy, for a while.
And at some point, the newness wears off. We sit at our mobile desks at the mercy of habit, checking social media, not talking to anyone all day, and leaving at 7 p.m. only to ask ourselves:
What exactly did I get done today?
Maybe it's because we missed the point.
35 percent of the workforce is now mobile.
And while the community you choose is important, the physical space in which it's contained is not what this revolution in work is about -- it's about the growing number of people who are able to nurture their passions through enjoyable and sustainable work.
While free coffee has its place, we must remember that co-working is vital in supporting people who choose healthy work they love. Co-working can help people truly come alive--if we let it.
At their core, co-working spaces can be both containers and facilitators for our own self-realization.
What if we looked at co-working this way -- as an empowering space for growth, exploration and evolution? What could that shift in perspective mean?
If we can shift the conversation from how much work we can get done in our space to the kind of expansive, nourishing work we can do, we can use that awareness to catalyze soul-fulfilling projects within our space.
The difference in focus is subtle, but powerful.
"Intellectual and creative people have always had their meeting points," says Mathias Schürmann, author of the book, "Co-working Space: A Business Model for Entrepreneurs and Knowledge Workers." "In the past, those were bistros and cafes, such as the Les Deux Magots in Paris, where authors, philosophers and intellectuals met. Today, the co-working space is a modern, expanded, democratic form of that."
Mathias started one of the world's first co-working spaces in 2002 called "Neuweg," which translates to "New Way," and then after shuttering it in 2005 co-founded an agency called Rocket in Switzerland, which he built around what he learned from crafting his co-working community.
"There are so many people now who work primarily online, and it's very easy to work abroad," said Mathias. "A co-working space is where you can make friends, connect with like-minded people, and even get business."
Mathias believes that now is the perfect time to work in concert with community, as so many people are discovering the power of working on what they love and the freedom and joy that gives them.
"We are a society now that allows us to express our full selves," said Mathias. "If you have an idea, you have the freedom to follow this idea to build something for yourself."
Here's to working for your future, not for your boss's.
Here are a few simple ways you can make sure your co-working space helps support your dreams:
1) Craft your schedule to reflect your deeper goals.
You can work whenever you want. Fabulous. But are you working on the things you care about?
Even when we're inspired, we often don't do the very things we say that we love doing. Focus on creating enough structure to allow space for your inspired work -- because it's your job to create it.
And you know what? If the actual hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work for you -- go for it. We don't need to demonize the 9 to 5. If you are, you're still engaging in a charged, negative relationship with it.
Ditch your stigmas and engage in joyful discipline; figure out what helps you get out of your own way. You get to decide how you make your living in this world.
2) Join (or create) a Collaborative Motivation group in your space.
In two of my most frequented co-working spaces, there are programs that help members set goals and motivate themselves.
At Scrib in Boulder, Colo., I've facilitated Work 'n Wine, a Monday night gathering of entrepreneurial women who come to work on the things that truly move themselves and their businesses forward (not just tread water with emails and maintenance tasks).
There's help out there. In most spaces, you don't need permission to start an event that will help people. Don't be afraid to ask if something like this exists or if you can be the one to start it. It's also a great way to get to know your fellow co-workers; you never know what great things may come from it.
3) Networking? Forget about it. Be open to magic instead.
Co-working spaces are designed to facilitate our creativity and our transition into doing the work that makes us thrive. They're a breeding ground for magical connection and serendipity.
The reason I prefer "magic" to "networking" is because when you open yourself up to connection without trying to force it is when we have the best collaborative experiences.
Don't worry about power networking in your co-working space's kitchen in an aggressive attempt to befriend every single member. Get cozy and contemplative with yourself, and try to vibe out which people make you feel truly expansive.
When you can look at it from this receptive space, you're much more likely to make deep, vibrant connections.
4) Most importantly: Realize you are choosing this workstyle. Make it worth it.
If you're just using a co-working space as a place to work, you're missing the point
Co-working spaces can be infrastructures designed to support our self-realization on the planet. Let's take advantage of that.
As Howard Thurman said: "Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
Through our own discovery and expression of our passions, we help other people give themselves permission to do the same.
This is how a world changes.