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Excerpted from How to Find the Work You Love by Laurence Boldt. Copyright © 1996 by Laurence Boldt. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 


"We are here to be ourselves, to make our unique contributions to the world."

Laurence Boldt, How to Find the Work You Love, Part 6

Again, expressing your desire to give is the path to greater meaning and deeper joy. Think of the times when you've felt happiest and best about yourself. If you look carefully, you'll find that most of the time it was because you were in some way giving to others. Think about what you did today. Isn't it the giving that counts? Think of the movies you've seen, the novels you've read. Aren't many of the great ones about individuals learning to give and the struggles they encounter on the way to giving their gifts?

Your contributions will be what you treasure most in the final analysis. But don’t take my word for it. Go to nursing homes and listen to people who have the wisdom of age. The stories of their giving are the most memorable – the ones that bring the twinkle to their eyes and the smile to their faces, the ones that warm your heart and make you feel proud to be a human being. We find lifelong meaning in giving through the work we love.

People who are truly dedicated to their work – people like Buckminster Fuller, Albert Schweitzer, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Pablo Picasso – continue to thrive on into old age. On the other hand, an inactive retirement ages people faster than the sun makes raisins out of grapes. Jose Ortega y Gasset put it well when he said: "An unemployed existence is a negation worse than death itself because to live means to have something definite to do … a mission to fulfill … and in the measure in which we avoid setting our life to something, we make it empty …. Human life, by its very nature ,has to be dedicated to something."

Giving your gifts to others is, in a very real sense, giving to yourself. You may think you are giving to others, but you are really giving yourself a chance to be your best. You’re giving yourself a chance to live your values, express your talents, and share your love. You’re giving yourself a chance to experience yourself making a meaningful difference and to feel fully alive in the process. Since you spend most of your time working, isn’t it worth the effort to arrange your life so that what you do to earn a living is what makes you feel best about yourself? Isn't that a gift you owe yourself?

Work and the Rest of Your Life

There are costs and risks to a program of action, bat they are far less than the long range risks and costs of comfortable inaction. – John F. Kennedy

Life is an integrated whole. We fool ourselves if we think it can be divided into discrete segments or compartments. Each area of our lives affects all the others. The unhappiness that results from a frustrating experience of work cannot be contained; it spills across the entire spectrum of our lives. On the other hand, doing the work you love promotes happiness in other, seemingly unrelated areas of your life. Once you have identified the work you love and have begun taking positive steps to realize it, you can set about balancing it with other important aspects of your life.

While, in the long run, doing the work you love is critical to a balanced and harmonious life, the process of making a change in an area as fundamental as work can be disruptive. Going through the process of a career change can put significant strain on our relationships. Our loved ones may feel neglected, should we have to devote additional time to our work through a period of transition or retraining. We may have to deal with the fears and anxieties of our life partners or parents, or with their inability to see the merit in the course we are pursuing. We may have to confront, as never before, our own insecurities and self-doubt, as we leave behind the security of what we have done before and risk going after what we really want. For these and many more reasons, it may seem easier to settle for less than to take the reisks and endure the temporary upheavals that accompany change. To be sure, the risks and costs of making a career change are immediate and apparent. Yet, while they may seem more remote and obscure, there are even greater costs associated with settling for anything less than the work you love.

The individual who continues in work that he hates, is bored with, or is merely indifferent to, or who resigns himself to being treated like a cog in a machine loses self-respect. His self-confidence evaporates. He beings to feel bitter and resentful or beaten and depressed. As Albert Camus put it, "Without work, all life goes rotten. But when work is soulless, life stifles and dies." To live your life to the fullest, you must find a way to put your heart and soul into your work. If you present work does not allow you to do this, find one that will.

When we fail to confront the unhappiness or frustration we feel in our work lives and to make the necessary changes, we may turn to self-destructive forms of escape in a vain attempt to mask or numb our pain. One who feels trapped in a hopeless and desperate work situation may seek escape through a variety of means – everything from excessive television watching and overeating, to drug or alcohol abuse, all the way to suicide. Escape may take the form of endless love affairs, as one tries to fill with admirers the void left by his failure to adequately express himself and his gifts. It may take the form of excessive spending. One may bring great anxiety upon himself and his loved ones by attempting to live far beyond his means in an attempt to impress upon himself and others that he has made it, that he is okay. Far from bringing relief, attempts to run away from the pain of one’s work life inevitably inflict further damage on an individual’s self-esteem. The best course is to face the issue square on, to admit your unhappiness and begin charting a course that in time will lead to a fulfilling life’s work.

Many personal relationships have been destroyed by the failure of one or both parties to achieve a clear sense of direction or purpose in their lives. The aimless party feels badly about him- or herself and so begins to find fault with, and make excessive demands on, the other. These people demand attention, wanting the other to constantly reassure them that they are loveable and okay. This becomes a horribly destructive and draining game. We cannot demand from others what we can only earn for ourselves by committing ourselves to living up to our best. We are not here to be someone else or just to be with someone else. We are here to be ourselves, to make our unique contributions to the world.

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