From Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work

“If I Were Really Important . . .”

No one ever finds life worth living—he has to make it worth living.

Author Unknown

In one of my “Dare to Connect” workshops, I instructed all my students to participate full-out in their jobs for one entire week. I asked them to “act as if” their actions really made a difference to everyone around them. The key question they were to ask themselves during the week was:

“If I were really important here, what would I be doing?”

And then they were to set about doing it.

Peggy resisted the assignment. She lamented that she hated her job in a public relations firm and was just biding her time until she found a new one. Each day was pure drudgery as she watched the clock slowly move through eight painful hours. With great skepticism, she finally agreed to try it for just one week—to commit 100 percent to her job, “as if” she really counted.

The following week, as I watched Peggy walk into the room, I couldn’t believe the difference in her energy level. With excitement in her voice, she reported the events of her week.

“My first step was to brighten up the dismal office with some plants and posters. I then started to really pay attention to the people I work with. If someone seemed unhappy, I asked if there was anything wrong and if I could help. If I went out for coffee, I always asked if there was anything I could bring back for the others. I complimented people. I invited two people for lunch. I told the boss something wonderful about one of my co-workers (usually, I’m selling myself!).”

Then Peggy asked herself how she could improve things for the company itself. “First, I stopped complaining about the job—I realized I was such a nag! I became a self-starter and came up with a few very good ideas that I began implementing.” Every day, she made a list of things she wanted to accomplish and set about accomplishing them. “I was really surprised by how much I could do in a day when I focused on what I was doing!” she said. “I also noticed how fast the day goes when I am involved. I put a sign on my desk that said, ‘If I were really important here, what would I be doing?’ And every time I started to fall back into my old patterns of boredom and complaining, the sign reminded me what I was supposed to be doing. That really helped.”

What a difference a simple question made in just one short week! It made Peggy feel connected to everyone and everything around her—including the organization itself. And whether Peggy chose to stay in her current job or not, she had learned a way to transform any work experience.

Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.

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