Driven by Values & Purpose

“Good” and “Work” represent the central organizing ideas I’ve been working on for several decades.

To help others understand “good work” I suggest looking first at what each component word means individually—not just to me, but to more than a thousand people I’ve been honored to mentor and coach since 1988.

The "Good" Part: Your Purpose

One part of Good Work is the “good” part:

  • Your values-driven personal purpose.

Early milestones along your journey down the path to Good Work as Meaningful Work include:

  • A clear sense of your values
  • Confidence about your personal purpose

The "Work" Part: How You Make a Living

The other part of Good Work is the “work” part:

  • What you do for a living
  • How you spend your time
  • So you can:
    • Pay your bills
    • Support your family
    • Live a “good life”
Glassblowing artisan working on glass tubes with a blow-torch flame.

Interests, Capacities, Money

Young woman in apron, sitting at workshop table painting a clay bowl on a turntable.

As I’ve said elsewhere, for livelihood to be “Good Work “, it must be determined:

  • Primarily by your innate interests and capacities (that’s another piece of the “good” part).

  • Secondarily by the need to make money (a piece of the “work” part).

Finding Good Work, work that lets you do what you love and still pay the bills may not always be easy, but it’s definitely doable.

Meaning: The "what you love" part

Finding work that feels meaningful to you is important—maybe more than money, in the long run.

  •  That’s the “do what you love” part.

Money: The "still pay the bills" part

Making money is important too. 

  • That’s the “still pay the bills part.

When to "Wei" (Action), When to "Wu" (Non)

“Careers” change, sometimes in an instant of “Aha!” insight. More often it happens through small changes in your understanding of what you want and/or what’s possible at the moment.

Sometimes you can take big leaps, but mostly you repeat tiny steps that lead you through a series of better and better situations or experiences and you learn as you go.

Do Nothing (wu)

You could do nothing, just sit back and let life happen to you, responding as best you can to each opportunity or challenge.

Reflect & Harmonize (wei)

You could spend some time reflecting on what you really want from life, then sit back well-informed and “pre-programmed” to give priority to specific opportunities or challenges that harmonize with your vision of life and your personal purpose and values.

Take Action (also wei)

Having reflected on your situation and harmonized with your life, you can:

  • Take action
    • That arises naturally out of
      • Your reflections 
      • What you receive as gifts from the world in the form of
        • Challenges
        • Opportunities

A Few Starter Questions

Tools of the Trade: Hobart Mixer

Here are a few questions to get your reflection started:

  • What is my vision of life’s possibilities?
  • What might my personal purpose be?
  • How would I like to spend my time both at work and at play?
  • What kind of people would I like to work and/or hang out with?
  • What type of work would I rather do, whether mental, physical, or some combination?
  • Would I prefer working indoors or outdoors?
  • Would I rather work with people, animals, machines, or some combination of those?
  • What are my financial responsibilities? (cash flow and net worth)
  • Who’s on my team?

And so on.

It also helps to work on your own sense of when action is appropriate (wei) and when patience is called for (wu).

 

Intention, Choice, & Doing What Needs to Be Done

The Present Moment Awareness of mindfulness practice can give you clarity about your deepest intentions.

It can help you make better choices.

Combined with a willingness to do what needs to be done,

you will be able to find your “Good Work” . . .

. . . —work that generates a good living but also . . .

. . . allows you to develop your innate capacities . . .

. . . while you fulfill your personal purpose . . .

. . . (built upon your innate interests). 

How Do You Know It's Good Work?

We’ve mentioned this elsewhere too, but it never hurts to repeat important points. The cumulative practice of the following dozen qualities helps you create your own “Good Work.”

Clear Goals—Immediate Feedback—Challenge Greater than Skill

When a job provides clear goals, immediate feedback, and a level of challenge slightly greater than your current skill level, then you have a first chance at experiencing work as “good.”

Human Pace—Awareness of Impact—Freedom to Speak

When you have the freedom to work at your own pace (not the pace of machines), when you are aware of the “downstream” impacts of your work, and when you are free to point out negative impacts without fear of punishment or reprisal, then you have the next level of work as “good.”

Feels Good—Takes Care of Family—Benefits Community

When your work feels good, when it allows you to take care of family and friends, when it benefits your community and society, then you have the nearly complete formula for work that is “good.”

You CAN Do What You Love & Still Pay the Bills

When you feel good about your work, when you know that you CAN “do what you love and still pay the bills,” at last, you have a well developed picture of what “good work” looks like.

Top 12 Qualities of "Good Work"

Level 1

  • Clear goals
  • Immediate feedback
  • Challenge greater than skill level

Level 2

  • Work at your own pace
  • Awareness of “downstream” impacts
  • No fear of punishment or reprisals

Level 3

  • Feels good
  • Takes care of family and friends
  • Benefits community and society

Level 4

  • You feel good about your work
  • Do what you love
  • Still pay the bills
Brush painting of a circle, triangle, and square, illustrating Mindfulness and Meaning; the square symbolizes the body, the triancgle symbolizes emotions, the circle symbolizes the mind.

How I Can Help

Good Work Guidance™

For those who prefer to work for others but still want their work to be “good!”

Good Business Advice™

For creatives, activists, and entrepreneurs who work for themselves (or want to).

Learn more about meaningful work or the services I offer.

Follow any of the links below.