Work Ethic. What is it? How is it observed? How is it defined? How is it evaluated? How do evaluations of our work ethic affect our interaction and engagement with the world?
As with many traits and skills, the quality or manifestation of an individual’s ‘work ethic’ can often assume labels from those outside of them such as ‘good’, ‘poor’, ‘strong’, ‘low’, etc. Because these terms are subjective by nature and evaluative in delivery, the complexities of our capacity or ability or experience can be misrepresented by the discourse. ‘Work ethic’ in itself is an idea. Therefore, an individual’s definition of this idea is subject to change and shift as the individual changes and shifts. It is subject to diverse interpretations in diverse situations.
As of today, we are one week away from the fifteenth annual Big Sky Film Festival. Last year, at this festival, we attended a film entitled All the Difference. Whereas some artistic expression is like a mirror and it reflects back to us familiarities within our own lives, some artistic expression is like a window – it provides a look into something completely outside of us and exposes us to the unfamiliar. All the Difference served as a window for our learning community. It provided us with perspective on the human experience from multiple unfamiliar vantage points. Yet, even through windows we often see small mirrors for reflection. Throughout the film, the young men involved often talked about ‘doing the right thing’, ‘doing good’, or ‘working hard’. These are phrases we are very familiar with. Perhaps they are so familiar, and perhaps they are attached to so many aspects of our lives, we sometimes find ourselves unsure of what these words mean in context, and instead only know them abstractly.
As some of us reflected on this use of language and our understanding of the individual experiences that were highlighted in the film, the conversation began to look at how individuals in the film defined ‘working hard’ and ‘doing good’. As the discussion developed it was said that doing good and working hard meant, “doing what was best for them as defined by them”. It was further said, “by doing what was best for them they were able to give back to the people in their lives they cared about.”
Doing what is best for us. Giving back to people we care about.
From a film analysis and shared discussion between learners in our community, it sounds like ‘work ethic’ can be seen as an idea that is defined by our own understanding of what we think is best for us, and this leads to our ability to contribute.
These musings inspired further questions that we simply sat with as the discussion came to a close: What do we think is best for us? What ideas are we telling ourselves based on what we are being told? In what ways are these ideas helping or hindering our abilities to serve ourselves and contribute to those outside of us? How can we uncover and attend to our needs and interests so we can develop these understandings?
These questions cover a lot of ground. They urge us to consider many parts of our lives where our experiences may differ drastically. If we define the efforts of all of our pursuits as well as the pursuits of others through one lens of ‘work ethic’, the diversity of our experiences and intentions are undermined by the preconceived ideas of a generalized abstraction.
Perhaps, as we define what is best for us, it leads to our ability to support what is best for others.
For a look at this year’s festival, click here –> Big Sky Film Fest