Why do we work so hard?

Every once in a while I pause and think – do I work too hard? In my job, the travel can be the real slog, especially with delays and cancellations. Usually around this time of year, my husband reminds me how often I have been away. (To save you the time, Kevin, the answer is 17 nights in two months, including three weekends). But then I think – everyone works hard! Sometimes conversations are like competitions as people compare schedules – long days, evenings, and travel – until someone gets a topper (for me recently, it was weekends).

So the more interesting question, and I think we should all pause and answer it from time to time is this – why?  Why do we work so hard? I found myself thinking about two reasons, and then really dwelling on a third.

The first is people. I work hard because I work with incredible people. I mean it!  CAIS leaders go the extra distance to get the job done, and my passionate team feeds on their passion. I am so motivated by everyone that I work hard to keep up. I don’t want to single anyone out, but Friday night at 10:17pm, I got this email from Sheri Little, our PD Coordinator: “We are on fire!  I am thrilled to be part of this team.  This LI is going to be the best ever and the CAIS team is going to set the bar even higher in 2015/16”. With that kind of attitude, who wouldn’t work hard?

The second is projects. I get to work on incredible projects designed to support the very best schools in Canada. Our schools are busy and CAIS leaders work relentlessly on improvement; so the projects we design – accreditation, PD, and research – must always add value, both now and in the future. Projects such as revising our Accreditation Guidelines and creating The 2051 Project compel me in a way that I can forget that my job is a job.

So when I stop and think about why I do what I do, I feel lucky to have a meaningful career. I actually love the people and the complexity of the challenges. I feel fortunate that my time is spent doing something that really matters to me. Furthermore, while some people like to be experts at their job, I actually like feeling that I may be in over my head. So I get sucked in, and yes, I work hard. My guess? Every CAIS leader and educator feels similarly.

But this week, I had to dig deeper. I had meetings and then the NAIS conference in Boston so my days were long, and by the fifth night at the hotel, I found myself really wondering why I do what I do. It is a privilege to work for CAIS, and I genuinely love my job, but at the end of a long day, when I am away from my husband and kids, that just doesn’t cut it. I need a topper.

So I focus on my family. It is hard to think about, and it can seem inherently contradictory, but my job, which takes me away from them, also enables me to give them more than I could have hoped for. Kevin and I believe that money is best spent on experiences and the gift of learning. So at the end of the day, when we both think about this question of why we do what we do, we always agree that there is no better investment – albeit it’s an expensive investment! – than giving Jacob and Kathleen a CAIS education.

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