I thought I would start this post with my all-time favorite quote about work and it just so happens it comes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
It speaks to doing whatever you do to the utmost of your ability. The question I can hear most of you saying is, “why?” Because all of us have felt the indescribable joy of a doing a job well. The great feeling you experience when you satisfy not only a loved one, a boss, or a colleague, but yourself. I can remember how proud my kids were when they finished a job, cleaned their room, and you know they really, REALLY, put their heart into it. They are not only happy to get the affirmation from me, but the internal satisfaction really shines through.
What’s my point besides doing a job well? The primary reason I would encourage anyone to take Dr. King’s words to heart is the physical effects doing a good job has on a person. That good feeling comes from a shot of dopamine – your body’s feel good drug. Dopamine as a neurotransmitter not only gives us that feeling we get from checking off items on a list, but also give us that extra good feeling when we do a great job.
We are the engines of our own happiness – outside praise or stimulus can stoke the fire – but the engine is ours and ours alone. If you are feeling down or depressed; an easy way to get out of the doldrums is to attack a task, and really do it well.
Research tells us that the amount of dopamine does depend on the amount of effort you put into a project. That’s why getting praise for someone else’s work doesn’t provide a person with an internal feeling of satisfaction. Quite the opposite actually – taking credit for someone else’s work can cause an honest person to produce cortisol – the chemical that causes stress. You really can’t lie to yourself.
So, in honor of Dr. King, do something amazing this week. Doing your best and knowing you did your best can trigger floods of dopamine. Make this week the start of doing everything to the best of your ability. The secret is that only you know what your upper limits are – only you. I’ll finish with another quote from Dr. King and a Dad joke.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Dad Joke: What did the ocean say to the shore? Nothing, it just waved.