THE SEARCH FOR A FULFILLING OCCUPATION—BECAUSE IT IS A HELL OF A THING TO WASTE A LIFE
There is a marvelous piece in BrainPickings on the importance of finding a fulfilling occupation.
The article made me think about what life must be like if what you do doesn’t fulfill you. It seems a pretty terrible way to spend one’s life.
I have never been entirely sure whether I picked writing or it picked me—I suspect the latter. What I can say is that I made a conscious decision to leave a job that was secure and well paid for an occupation I knew would be financially hazardous in the extreme—and I have never regretted that decision (despite the very real financial insecurities, and more than a little disapproval).
Enough of me. Let me list a few quotes from the BrainPickings article. Best to read the full thing if you can.
The desire for fulfilling work – a job that provides a deep sense of purpose, and reflects our values, passions and personality – is a modern invention. … For centuries, most inhabitants of the Western world were too busy struggling to meet their subsistence needs to worry about whether they had an exciting career that used their talents and nurtured their wellbeing. But today, the spread of material prosperity has freed our minds to expect much more from the adventure of life.
"Without work, all life goes rotten, but when work is soulless, life stifles and dies," wrote Albert Camus. Finding work with a soul has become one of the great aspirations of our age. … We have to realize that a vocation is not something we find, it's something we grow – and grow into.
It is common to think of a vocation as a career that you somehow feel you were "meant to do." I prefer a different definition, one closer to the historical origins of the concept: a vocation is a career that not only gives you fulfillment – meaning, flow, freedom – but that also has a definitive goal or a clear purpose to strive for attached to it, which drives your life and motivates you to get up in the morning.
Never have so many people felt so unfulfilled in their career roles, and been so unsure what to do about it. Most surveys in the West reveal that at least half the workforce are unhappy in their jobs. One cross-European study showed that 60 per cent of workers would choose a different career if they could start again. In the United States, job satisfaction is at its lowest level – 45 per cent – since record-keeping began over two decades ago.
A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.
Well, there is much more, but the above should give you a flavor. But let close with a quote I particularly like.
What man actually needs is not some tension-less state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.
Regarding that last quote, I agree completely. As for the illustration, it is, of course, of Albert Camus—one of my literary heroes.