Warning: half formed thoughts ahead
Self-preservation as a terrible motivator in the workplace. Really it is. Who wants to go through their day just trying to keep their job? I mean, don't get me wrong, I like my job and I don't want to be without one, but it can be hard to stay on target with persistent double vision: do good work and make sure you keep your job.
By keeping my job, here, I mean "getting tenure." I'm lucky (??!?!?!) enough to be in a tenure-track position at a large university, which brings with it all of the immediate horrors and potential glories of such an esteemed position. And by doing good work, here, I mean doing things that are meaningful and impactful. Obviously one can do both - these two visions can be aligned perfectly, or nearly so, such that doing good work results in keeping the job (getting tenure). But this isn't always the case. I see folks around me (in my field and others) who are highly motivated by keeping their job and I wonder whether their good work suffers.
I think it pays, and certainly has for me, to stop all the work and reflect on why I'm choosing to do what I'm doing. Is this project I'm working on useful for something other than churning out a publication or a talk or a poster? Am I contributing to a useful conversation with this work? Is anyone better off for this work being done? The answer is usually fuzzy, but I hope it trends towards "yes, this is useful and it is good work."
In many ways, the work that I do (facilitating the process of faculty sharing their scholarship, more or less) is the kind of thing that we'd (libraries) really like to not have to do. We'd like faculty to just want to do the sharing and know how to do it and have tools to do it on their own. In the end, the successful outcome of my position is the redundancy of my position - If I'm being honest about what I do, I should be trying to work my way out of a job.