[Tweet “It will increase the quality and happiness in your life”]

Indian thinker Krishnamurti (1987) believed that there are many people who want to be famous because they don’t love what they do. He believed that our present success is rotten because it teaches us to love success and not what we are doing. Results become more important than action. Loving what one does must include meaning otherwise it is difficult to distinguish a person with a vocation in life from someone who just likes his or her job (Cochran, 1990). A meaningful life seems necessary but not sufficient for happiness in one’s vocation. The reverse is less possible. Few people manage to be happy if their lives are pointless and empty (Baumeister, 1991). It may be possible to retire from jobs but not from our individual calling (Leider & Shapiro, 2004).

In specific studies, it was observed that many people did activities simply for the sake of doing that activity without expecting any rewards for doing so (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975). It was simply their love of their work which drove them. The research seems to indicate that the first thing that one must do in getting started is to be [Tweet “open to re-examining one’s work and the direction it is taking”].

Making the Choice for Work

A Japanese proverb says that vision without an action is a daydream and an action without vision is a nightmare (Halberstam, 2000). Spiritual Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi believed that you must be the change that you want to see in the world (Carter, 1995). Other popular writers and researchers have suggested that the vision is important but taking action to move towards the dream is equally important (Toms & Toms, 1998; Cochran, 1990). They suggested that industry in many cases approaches the activity of work as a battle vs. as a playground. Within this battle, this could lead to people having difficulty within the context of a company in finding meaning in their work. This could be a result of the conflict between making money at all costs and finding joy in one’s work.

Discovering what one loves to do can sometimes be a result of trying to solve a set of life problems which a person wishes to solve above everything else (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997). This can occur along with re-examination of what one has done, is currently doing, and wishes to do in the future. In fact, the regularity with which a person’s later vocation is directly opposite of an initial one makes it difficult to understand why it had been neglected for so long (Ansbacher & Ansbacher, 1956). The Tibetians had a belief around this which said if you wanted to know your future, you should look at what you were doing in the present (Toms & Toms, 1998). Sinetar (1987) suggested that one must search internally to reason and provide the necessary inspiration and courage and determination to seek out what one loves to do. When this occurs, work and play can be indivisible and work can be as enjoyable as leisure (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997).

For some people, following their love in vocation could be driven by the idea of generativity and concern for guiding the next generation (Erikson, 1986). Some people, in fact, in discovering the work they love to do feel like they have a need to make a difference (Sheehy, 1995). Still, it could remain important for people to know what they want from life; if they are not in touch with their passions neither do they take time for re-examination which ultimately could dictate their vocational choices.

Commitment to Work and Vocation

Sinetar (1987) said that an actualizing person is intrinsically involved with his or her work and uses it to understand the world around. Committing to the doing one’s vocation is a crucial step towards evaluating one’s progress, since it is our own appraisal which counts in the end Halberstam, 2000). Some researchers have suggested that work is never finished for those with a vocation; neither can one rest in a vocation (Adler, 1964; Cochran, 1990). This contrasts with the widely popular theory of late stage career development of Super, (1953) where he describes a phasing down of career related activities as preparation for retirement. This notion of retirement is consistent with the society view over the past 50 years which prepares those for retirement with the gold watch, the 401K plan, and the retirement party (Freedman, 2011). My definition of work especially for those over 40 is doing what you love for most of the day for the majority of your life.

While in today’s economic environment, people are forced to work longer there is still the expectation that instead they should retire and move aside for the younger workers. Can the experience of flow enhance one’s commitment to his or her vocation? Flow theory suggests that flow occurs when a person faces a clear set of goals that require appropriate responses (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997). For example, flow theory suggests that matching high skills and low challenges causes one to become bored and anxious while matching low skills and low challenges can cause apathy. Matching high challenges and high skills is the way when one tends to lose oneself in the task and thus one’s commitment can increase. When flow arises in actions taken toward a goal it can also increase commitment (Cochran, 1990). This begs the question about what should be in place to allow one to fully follow their vocation.

Start with these three questions:

  1. The work which I could do for the rest of my life which I enjoy would be?
  2. I can start to move towards doing this work by?
  3. As required I can make needed income doing this work by?

I’ll be cheering you on as you go!

Craig Nathanson

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