This week has been long. Some of the days have seemed like they had 48 hours in them — not 24. Other days I have felt as though I needed 48 of them, because 24 were just not feeling like enough to get everything done!

There have been many jobs to do. I have been able to mentally check off a lot of those “To Do’s” — but, as we have addressed in another column, sometimes the “To Do’s” get in the way of our “Be-ing”.

There are dirty jobs, and boring jobs, seemingly demeaning jobs, and difficult ones. Some jobs to do are heart-breaking, and others may be embarrassing. The interesting thing is that, even with most of these ugly jobs or disheartening ones, there is a good feeling somewhere within us for having contributed something to the running of this world, or our families, or our own little space on the earth.

Even though some folks’ jobs may seem more glamorous, exciting, or easier than our own, each person’s work brings with it some problems — issues — and the need to rise above the occasional difficult moments. Our acceptance of the mundane along with the more exciting allows us to relax and enjoy that journey.

Remember that story of a young woman who tearfully called her mother, weeping about her discouragement as a brand new wife? Through her tears she said something like this:

I wash the clothes, I make the bed, I vacuum, and do the dishes — and the next week I have to do it all over again!

This is worth a laugh, but the learning curve sometimes dictates that new jobs to do bring with them a slap of reality that we had not previously experienced. Before long, that young married woman is going to be laughing at her own words, and going about doing all those things — and so many more — on a daily basis. Whether or not she is content in her work is up to her.

Regardless of the work before us, we are honestly more content and satisfied when we do our best. “Good works” define us, and we grow while we continue to rise above mediocrity. Mediocrity is, unlike some would have us believe, less than “just doing okay” or an acceptance of so-so work. In the dictionary, other words for mediocrity are “poorness” and “weakness.” In our own minds and hearts, how do we define it? And what do we do to make sure our efforts are more excellent?

Having taken an informal survey of what makes people happy in their work, here are three points we may all consider in making our own jobs to do more fulfilling and positive:

  • Find Joy . Joy in our work may not be something we can always possess, but it is worth working for. (Pun intended.) We all may know of people who make a lot of money, but whose work does not bring them happiness. Some choose a dark, ugly route of making money. I have a hard time understanding how people may actually believe they feel joy when their work causes harm to others, or spreads darkness in this world. On the other hand, there are those who make little money, yet whose work brings them great contentment as they go about their efforts with cheer and with determination to make this world a better place. Joy lifts us and allows us to do more good works!
  • Go Beyond. “Going the extra mile” is a phrase we have heard many times. If it seems like too much effort or energy to go a mile, start out by going an extra inch or so in the daily efforts. Just a tiny bit of extra effort brings with it a certain satisfaction that aligns us with proper principles and brings a bit of a smile — to us, if to no one else! Then, we may go an extra foot, then a yard, so to speak – continually upping our efforts at making our work time more productive. Just as exercising our muscles allows them to strengthen, our mind and spirit is strengthened as we push ourselves to do a little more — even in the most dull of jobs. We are, however imperceptibly, engaged in being more productive and learning good things about our work ethic. It does pay off in the long run — in more ways that monetarily.
  • Consciously Choose Good. Elder Neal A. Maxwell once wisely counseled that “Human development … consists of both refusing to do evil and choosing to do good.” ( Ensign , July 1976, p.72.) If we have understood the importance of such advice in the spiritual choices, but not come to govern ourselves in all aspects of our life — including our work — in such a manner, why should we not start now to consciously choose to do more good in our work? Beyond what is required, beyond what others do, more than others might understand, our choice to do good brings human and divine development. Even if the boss does not know or appreciate the extra good we choose to do, we know. And it does not escape the watchful eye of our Heavenly Father. Some rewards come later — long after our present job is done.

Now, taking these three ideas and putting them to use in our schoolwork environment, in our homes, in our wards, in our professions and our humanitarian causes, what is the blessing for doing even more when so much is already expected of us?

The answer is perhaps a bit different for each of us. But we would all probably agree that we feel good inside when we have done a good work. Our life seems a little more joyful, we step beyond mediocrity and embrace “more” — our development is blessed and graced by our wise and good choices.

Like the newly married housewife, the discouragement may come. But it can be dismissed as we recognize the blessings that come with the eternal principle of work. Our good works make difference to us, and to those who may be taking note of our example.