How to have a Job that Isn’t Work
Thomas G. Plante
Wouldn’t it be great if you were happy to say: "thank God it’s Monday," rather than "thank God it’s Friday"?
I often tell my college and postgraduate students that they shouldn’t search for a job or even a career after they complete their education. Instead, they should search for their vocation or calling. I ask them to reflect on their greatest gifts and talents and then see if they can parlay them into a satisfying way to make a living and a difference.
Of course not everyone can get paid for what they love to do. For example, so many people want to do something creative with their lives such as work in music, drama, writing, and the arts but they just can’t find a way to make a decent living at these pursuits. Many must settle for a job or career that provides a reasonable salary, but that involves work that they find uncomfortable or even hate. Sadly, many people spend their work life counting the years, months, and days to retirement. A good friend of mine has an app that offers a countdown to retirement that he proudly and frequently displays.
In advising students I often pull a page from the St. Ignatius playbook and help them review the 4 Ds that can be found in the Spiritual Exercises (of St. Ignatius). These are useful even today, 500 years after they were published.
The 4 D’s: Discovery, Detachment, Discernment, and Direction
Discovery is finding out what you are really good at. What are your character strengths, talents, and gifts? There are many ways to make this discovery but listening to the input of those who know you best – who can be completely objective – can help.
Detachment is an effort to avoid thinking about and attaching to money, status, pleasing relatives and friends, and other factors that so often influence your decisions in unproductive and unsatisfying ways. Distance yourself from the outcome of your decisions by trying to be as objective as possible. Have no "dog in the hunt."
Discernment is a process where you attend to what gives you consolation (a good thing) versus desolation (a bad thing). What activities give you solace, joy, and peace versus tension, boredom, and discouragement? Pay attention to the activities, ideas, and decisions that help you feel at peace with yourself and others.
Finally, Direction is a vocational path to pursue at the end of this discernment process. If you find your true calling and vocation then work and play will often be hard to distinguish. You will be paid for who you are and what you were meant to be. You’ll find yourself saying "thank God it’s Monday" rather than "thank God it’s Friday."
At the end of the day don't we all want to use our greatest gifts and talents in a way that matters and that makes the world a better place in some important way ....and get paid to do it? Shouldn't we all go through this process and discern our true calling? Give it a try. What do you have to lose?
*A version of this article was posted by Psychology Today on Feb. 5, 2013.