What is good work?

It is in our nature as human beings that we are both active and social.

We are active in so far as we are designed to perform certain functions. We can move, manipulate, make things, communicate. We have agency, the ability to effect and change the world around us through our actions.

We are social in that nearly all of our activity is in some way directed towards our fellow humans, tribe, family, country etc. In evolutionary terms our survival was dependant upon co-operation and collaboration with other humans. The need to connect and contribute towards the group is hardwired into us.

Although we tend to think of and define ‘work’ in terms of an activity we are paid to do, it is perhaps more accurate and helpful to think of it as any activity that contributes to the enhancement of life. It is our way of making, shaping, or forming life both inside and around us. We create things through work and those activities in turn create us and who we are. We perform work when we are engaged in an activity that creates value. The value is not limited to enhancing human life but includes any activity that furthers or cares for any life-form on earth. In this way we might say that good work is at its core centred around care. Good work seeks to nurture, protect and develop life.

Ideally, work is creative self-activity, an authentic expression of our individuality. Through work we use our innate powers – our talents, gifts, skills and capacities to contribute to the community. Good work does not just contribute to our own well-being but to the well-being of the whole.

Real work, true work, is our way of being useful in the world. Work is a vehicle for self-expression, growth and development. It is, at its best, how we bring forth those latent potentialities within ourselves and express them in the world. It is the birthing or creation of something new. Whether we receive money in exchange for what we do is secondary. What is primary is the productive act, which seeks to serve something beyond ourselves.