Five ways to resoul your career
What is the point? Why am I doing this? Who cares? Does it matter? As Poehnell & Amundson (2011) point out “Many have questions about who they are and what they ought to be doing with their lives. Many struggle with personal and external issues that make it difficult for them to effectively answer these questions in practical ways that can be worked out in today’s labour market.”(p18).
Ultimately I believe that these are questions that at some time or other we all ask ourselves, and I further believe that frequently these questions are prompted by career crises. I also believe that these questions can in part be answered or addressed through our careers.
Our careers can become vehicles for the expression of and the nurturing of our souls. The impacts of exploitative work or drudgery are reflected in the terms we use to describe these activities such as soulless, soul destroying, empty, meaningless, crushing and so on. Similarly unemployment has been described in similar terms. It reminds me of the close connection between work and the soul.
A good career is food for the soul. A good career allows us to attend to meaning and mattering in our lives (Amundson, 2009). A good career fosters our spirit because our work is social contribution (Savickas, 1997). All work is social – as John Paul Getty said, if you haven’t got a problem, you haven’t got a job – work is socially delegated problem-solving. So in working with others to help them solve problems we achieve connection, and this in turn provides us with a sense of social connection, a sense of place and a sense of belonging. We become part of a community of connection through work. Thus work is spiritual.
Deborah Bloch in her writings on Spirituality (e.g. Bloch 1997; 1998) identifies five aspects of spirituality that are relevant to careers:
Ed Colozzi has written that finding work that addresses ones essential sense of worth and meaning – the work you are meant to do and have to do, is to discover one’s calling. Having a sense of mission can be motivating, reassuring and sustaining when inevitably we are confronted by barriers and frustrations in work.
Doing the work you feel you are meant to do may manifest itself by a sense of fluency or ease with which the work becomes available to you. A series of “chance events” that appear to smooth the way into a role, or provide the opportunities to follow a path or complete a task can sometimes be interpreted as signs of a calling. A feeling of being “comfortable in ones shoes”, that you have found your niche, that you fit in can all be expressions of finding a calling.
Listening carefully to that calling can sometimes be difficult. Some have suggested techniques such as meditation and other mindfulness approaches as a way to clear away the distracting inner dialogues to hear our calling. A calling may appear to change and transform as contexts and the problems we confront change over time, and the challenge is to understand the consistency of the Calling and to have the wisdom to articulate that calling in different ways in different contexts. This is what some call being true to yourself.
Related to our Calling is a sense of purpose. A sense of purpose results when we transform our calling into meaningful social contribution, which often is some form of work (whether paid or unpaid). Having a sense of purpose means to be able to see the connections between our intentional actions and their intended impact upon the world. It follows that work that is meaningful to us and that matters to us and to others is going to be purposeful work.
Within the Chaos Theory of Careers (Pryor & Bright, 2011), a central idea is that the sheer complexity of ourselves and the systems we live within mean there are limitations to what we can know or is knowable. Thus the world is a mystery, not a puzzle that is to be solved or indeed solvable (e.g. Dave Snowden 2010, see for instance his comments at the end of his blog here).
There is structure, knowledge or systems that are beyond what we know, beyond our limitations of what we can know. Kant saw faith as a way to deal with the transcendent.
If work is social contribution then work connects us to society. One of the most commonly noted consequences of unemployment for many is the sense of disconnection and ennui that many who are unemployed can feel. A spiritual sense of connection often refers to a vaster connection of things in the world. Within the Chaos Theory of Careers (Pryor & Bright, 2011), the notion of sensitivity to initial conditions (the characteristic that leads to non-linear, or sudden or disproportional changes in our systems) it is interesting to ask what are our “initial conditions” for our personal human systems. Quickly it becomes apparent that we do not “start” with our genes, because these came from somewhere, and before we know it, our family tree of “starting conditions” takes us back to the beginning of the universe – and that is to take just one aspect of our “starting conditions”. We live in and between our connections.
Being at one with the universe is to have a sense of harmony. You cant do harmony on your own (well you can record yourself repeatedly and overdub it in Garageband software!) but generally the most satisfying harmonies occur when we become one, like a band playing well together, or two singers in duet. There is something that moves us when we experience harmony, something that we want to join in with. I see harmony in the modern phenomena of flash mobs. The spontaneous coming together of people. In their paper showing how Youtube can be used effectively in career counseling, Glavin, Smal & Vandermeeren (2009) refer to a video showing how a flashmob forms when the song Do Re Mi is played through the PA and people spontaneously join a joyful dance. One of the authors describes her reaction to watching this video: “To begin with, I love performance art that incorporates an unsuspecting public because the crowd becomes a part of the performance and it is an art form that exists only within the moment. The other thing that I like about this video is the sense that everyone in the train station is a part of something greater. You see the people’s expressions changing from confusion, to surprise, to excitement, and in some cases, you see them begin to let go – letting the moment, and the movement, move them. I think that one of the most powerful gifts you can give someone is the sense that they are not alone in this world.”
Harmony is a joyful dance through and with life.
Five ways to re-soul your career.
- Find some quiet time; take a break or a trip on your own. Clear your schedule and try some mindfulness techniques to clear away day to day distractions. Try to find time each week to practice this. Learn to hear your calling.
- List out how your work links to society. What difference are you making? How important is that to you. Does it matter to you or to others? How could you find out how and why it matters?
- Relax your preoccupation with trying to control or predict everything. Recognize that you cannot do it or know it all and be comfortable with that. Celebrate that fact and be humble in the face of it.
- Write out the ways in which you are connected to your: family, friends, community, place, country, colleagues, and strangers
- Join in. Consciously make the effort to harmonise with others. Seek opportunities to be in harmony.
P.P.S. You may find more on practical ways of working with spirituality in this post
P.P.P.P.S. PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT – IT IS A FORM OF CONNECTION AFTERALL! 🙂
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Colozzi, E. A. (2007). Spirituality, career development and calling: Emergent phenomena. Paper presented at NCDA Global Conference, Seattle on July 8, 2007.
Colozzi, E. A. & Colozzi, L. C. (2000). College students’ callings: An integrated values-oriented perspective. In D. A. Luzzo (ed.), Career counseling of college students: An empirical guide to strategies that work (pp. 63–91). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
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Poehnell, G. & Amundson, N. (2011). Hope-filled Engagement. Richmond, BC: Ergon Communications
Savickas, M. L. (1997). The spirit in career counseling: Fostering self-completion through work. In D. Bloch and L. Richmond (eds.), Connections between spirit and work in career development: New approaches and practical perspectives (pp. 3–26). Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publishing.
Snowden, D. (2010). Extispicium. Cognitive Blog. Downloaded from http://www.cognitive-edge.com/blogs/dave/2010/07/extispicium.php on 15.4.2011