The Path to Meaningful Work
If you want to find meaningful work, these are the traits to cultivate:
Self-Discipline. The path to meaningful work is equally challenging for people who are already overloaded by current responsibilities or who have plenty of time but a shortage of motivation. Both need to cultivate the self-starting energy that is characteristic of people who succeed in making big changes in their lives. If you usually do what needs to be done regardless of how you feel-- if you can get up in the morning and take at least some step, no matter how small, toward your goals-- you will find your life's work.
Persistence. On the path to meaningful work, you may make some false starts. You may need to back track or change directions. Or, you may find deeply fulfilling work right away and you may or may not need to invest a lot of time and effort before you can earn a living at it. In any case, you must persevere until you either reach your goal or make an informed choice to drop it.
Acceptance. People who succeed at finding meaningful work are able to accept when something clearly is not going to work out. They let go without wasting time, and move on to new opportunities. This is not the same as giving up. It is the art of facing the facts. Throughout The Path to Meaningful Work are exercises for tapping into your intuition; these exercises will help you see and accept reality and make the tough choices it sometimes requires.
Ability to Manage Risks. We have borrowed this term from the business world because we advocate a clear-headed, methodical approach to personal risk. The people most likely to find meaningful work that lasts are those who plan and prepare to minimize risk. They study their own situation and each opportunity carefully, then develop a strategy before proceeding. When the moment comes to move forward, they tend to face very little risk and are better prepared to handle whatever challenges may arise.
Desire for Lifelong Learning. Lasting change comes about when we are willing and able to learn something new. If you have cultivated a lifelong interest in, and habit of, learning, you are better prepared for the learning that is inevitably required on the path to meaningful work, whether it involves formal education or independent personal development or both.
Comfort with Numbers. A lot of people think, "Uh oh" at this one. But notice we didn't say ability with numbers. You don't need to be a book keeper or accountant to find meaningful work, but you do need to be reasonably comfortable looking straight at your financial situation. If you aren't comfortable doing that, you won't know where you stand. You might unwittingly take an unwise risk. You won't know how much or how little sacrifice a change in your work life will require. You might even stay stuck where you are indefinitely out of fear of the unknown. People who are comfortable with numbers tend to make smart choices in their lives.
Support. The trait here is the willingness to seek and accept support from other people. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. Better still is a community of support--friends, families, and colleagues who encourage your search for meaningful work by listening, reflecting with you, applauding your efforts, and responding to your frustrations, fears, and failures with equanimity.
Emotional Stability. Of course there is no such thing. Emotions rise and fall without our control. But we can control our behavior, which allows us to do whatever needs to be done regardless of how we feel. If you are able to act in a way that is stable, constructive, and consistent with your values irrespective of your emotions, you will achieve your goals.
Mindfulness. Mindfulness means actively creating new categories, welcoming new information, and tolerating more than one view. It also means letting go of the demand for categories, disassociating from the craving for information, and detaching from the need for a point of view. Mindfulness is the present moment appreciation of our inner states of being and the world around us. If you cultivate this one trait, you will have the tools to cultivate all the others.
Later exercises in The Path to Meaningful Work will help you strengthen each of these character traits. In the process, you will prepare yourself for any challenge.
If you're not working on yourself,
you're not working.
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