12/06/2013 09:48 am ET Updated Feb 05, 2014

When Work Becomes Work

Every day, like millions of other people, I wake up and get ready to go to work. And, like everyone else, I sometimes wonder what the heck am I doing, spending my days digging holes so that others can fill those holes with their profits. It can feel like an endless grind on some days, while on other days, it feels like I'm having fun. It is the difference between these two extremes that defines when work actually stops being enjoyable, and starts to become work. Like the philosophical metaphor: "A rock is just a rock," is work really just work?

Even on our best days, we can go through bouts of stress and turmoil. The side effects of decision making and interpretation mean that we are not always right, nor are we always protected from the evils of everyday politics. At one moment we are getting things done, "taking care of business," as it were, while at other times we find ourselves doing things that we either don't like, don't believe in or don't think is good or right.

Being challenged with the variables in our careers causes us to stop and think. Questions like: "Am I really doing what I enjoy?" or, "Am I doing what I think is right?" can cloud our thought processes. Because we each have a different definition of what it means to enjoy work, we each have our own list of what we ultimately consider rewarding.

There is an old saying that states: "Do what you love to do, and you will never work a day in your life." But as times get tougher, and money gets tighter, it becomes more of a challenge to find something that you love to do, and get paid well for it. I can think of a lot of things I love doing, but very few of these activities can match the money I make doing what I do for a living.

Is it possible to make yourself enjoy what you're doing? Sure, we can try and convince ourselves that we love what we do, but when we consider all the bullshit, the politics and the unfairness that come with every job, it slowly brings us back to the reality of working for a living -- nothing is perfect.

As a designer, I truly love what I do -- I design. Something that I'm really good at, and something that others recognize in me. My reward (and what makes my work enjoyable) is in feeling that what I do is valued, and that it positively affects the world, one way or another. Ultimately, work becomes work when we forget all the positive things that come out of what we do, how we help people and how others value our efforts.

So take a minute to evaluate what makes you smile, what brings you joy and what rewards you get from doing what you do for a living.

Because even in the act of digging a hole -- it can be a heck of a lot of fun -- or just plain work.