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How to Enjoy Work on its Own Terms

How to Enjoy Work on its Own Terms

In a perfect world, when it came to choosing an occupation, we would have only two priorities in mind: to find a job that we enjoyed, and to find a job that paid us enough to cover reasonable material needs. But in reality, we tend to be haunted by three additional priorities:

  1. Find a job that will pay not just enough to cover reasonable material expenses but a lot more besides, enough to impress other people – even other people we don’t like very much. 
  2. Find a job that will allow us not to be at the mercy of other people, whom we may deep down fear and distrust. 
  3. Find a job that will make us well known, esteemed, honoured and perhaps famous, so that we will never again have to feel small or neglected.

The state of our fragile psyches means that we have to aim for far more stellar careers, even in fields we really don’t much like and may have to work much harder than is good for our health or our families.

However, what would enable us to make the right career choices is something that seems, on the face of it, to have nothing to do with work at all: love. A child who is properly loved is a creature who doesn’t need to prove itself in any significant way. It doesn’t have to excel at school, and can find its way to its own pleasures, it doesn’t need to amaze; because it’s special enough just by existing. It may end up working extremely hard, but it will do so because it is passionate, not because it craves applause. When someone properly loves us, their patience, concern and tenderness make us feel rooted and welcome on the earth. It doesn’t really matter if no one knows who we are and if there is very little left over at the end of the month. How much money is needed without love – how little one can get by with it!

It follows that when people crave power, fortune and fame, it isn’t greed that is driving them, but an anguished feeling of being unloved – for which we can feel enormous compassion. They look like winners, they are in reality unhappy victims.

So when choosing a career, we should dare to ask: what might I have done with my life if I had felt properly loved from the start? The most astonishing career achievements will never compensate anyone for the lack of love they have suffered: work cannot fix a deficit of love. We should enjoy work on its own terms.

Find out more in our class on Purpose.

By The School of Life

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