Five ways to resoul your career

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:

  • Calling
  • Purpose
  • Transcendence
  • Connection
  • Harmony.


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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. Write out the ways in which you are connected to your: family, friends, community, place, country, colleagues, and strangers
  5. Join in. Consciously make the effort to harmonise with others. Seek opportunities to be in harmony.

P.S. If you are interested in a much more extensive consideration of Spirituality within the Chaos Theory of Careers, chapter 9 of The Chaos Theory of Careers is where to look or get it from me here.

P.P.S. You may find more on practical ways of working with spirituality in this post

P.P.P.S. David Winter’s Existential Take on Spirituality here and my next post that is related here



Amundson, N. (2009). Active engagement: Enhancing the career counseling process (3rd ed.). Richmond, BC: Ergon Communications

Bloch, D. P. & Richmond, L. J. (eds.). (1997). Connections between spirit & work in career development. Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black.

Bloch, D. P. (1997). Spirituality, intentionality and career success: The quest for meaning. In D. P. Bloch & L. J. Richmond (eds.). Connections between spirit & work in career development (pp. 25–208). Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black.

Bloch, D. P. (2006). Spirituality and careers. In J. H. Greenhaus & G. A. Callanan (eds.), Encyclopedia of career development (Vols. 1 & 2, pp. 762–764). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Bloch & L. J. Richmond (eds.), Connections between spirit & work in career development (pp. 85–208). Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black.

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.

Glavin, K., Smal, P., & Vandermeeren, N. (2009). Integrating career counseling and technology. Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, 25(1), 160?176.

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 on 15.4.2011



12 thoughts on “Five ways to resoul your career

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  3. Stevie

    What a great way to put it, “resoul your career.” You’ve outlined some keys to a higher quality of life through connecting with work in a spiritual way. Loved this post!

  4. Jim Bright Post author

    thanks Stevie, periodic re-souling is a useful exercise to help us stay tuned to calling, harmony, connection and the rest

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  6. Jim Bright Post author


    Thanks for your so very generous thoughts and taking the trouble to leave a comment I appreciate it. I’d be interested to know which of the five aspects: Calling, Purpose, Transcendence, Connection and Harmony you feel clients relate to most?

  7. Edward Colozzi

    Hi Jim, Wanted to share a few comments on your excellent “re-souling your career” post. I agree with so much you have written here, so I decided to just elaborate on a few ideas and raise a few questions to further ponder.

    What Prompts Angst and What Helps?

    Because work takes up many hours in most people’s lives and sadly, many are working for income vs income AND meaning, a crisis in our “worker role” can often produce sufficient angst required to serve as an excellent catalyst to take action and consider ways to change the situation. Sometimes this involves a willingness to seek assistance from some person we deem appropriate to facilitate our progress forward. Because our career choices (as are all life roles) are venues for meaning-making, making wise career-life choices affords people the opportunity to discover their gifts/talents, true inner values , and translate this into work choices that provide meaning, purpose and balance among all career-life roles .

    And yes, these choices, all of which are ultimately values-based (thus the relevance of appropriate reflection on one’s true values!) can nurture our souls in powerful ways that even reduce physical, psychological, and spiritual aliments. These ailments mostly leave us with the feeling that our lives are on hold, off track, in a rut, etc., and we experience what I call, “spiritual constipation”.

    My experiences, personally and especially professionally (I often learn so much more from listening to my clients’ stories and struggles than I think I give them in my counseling/coaching sessions), lead me to the “oasis of reflection”, where taking time to stop the journey … truly continues the journey in all the necessary ways that lead to progress, fulfillment, and increased efficacy beliefs to do what needs to be done with our lives. Reflection is critical to discover calling.

    Calling, Purpose, Transcendence, Connection, Harmony

    Here are a few comments on these important and complex concepts. Calling is something that every human has, across career-life roles; we need to discover what our calling is and how to best experience it. There are multiple callings, some primary and others secondary. Your references list the APA resource where I discuss this more fully.

    If having a sense of purpose means being able to see connections between intentional actions and intended impact on our world (and I think that is certainly an important part of “purpose”), then the greater we are able to see these connections, the greater sense of purpose we might experience. (I’ll bring purpose back in a bit)

    You mention in your Chaos Theory of Careers that, “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.”

    How Much Knowledge Do We Really Access?

    First, if that IS true (the idea that there are limitations to what we can possibly truly ever know), then how could one ever KNOW if that indeed were true? (if due to the complexity of ourselves and other external systems, and the ensuing limitations upon each of us, how could we really know… that we don’t know or truly DO know much, much more?)

    Second, imagine, for a moment, that there is no limitation to our knowledge potential and our access to it, and each of us has three selves;

    a) a regular self who experiences life, all the challenges and complexities, including all the feelings humans have as they experience their life journey;

    b) a true self who guides and offers unconditional love and wisdom and who is somehow connected to God/Higher Power/the Buddha within, whatever transcends our regular self, and who always knows whatever is important for us to know and apply in our life journey—but who speaks in silence and whispers to “teach” us, and discipline our regular self with its human nature to listen better to our true self, our intuition, and how best also use empirical evidence for many of our decisions that have serious consequences, as we navigate our life journey; and

    c) false self, the self that forms as a result of our “human” experiences from early on, the self that is our naysayer and uses fear and self-doubt to seed low-efficacy beliefs, and does everything possible to contradict our true self and simultaneously confuse regular self, again, as regular self is working so hard to navigate life’s journey with all its bumps and challenges.

    What if this paradigm IS the truth, and each of us has this innate capacity, through our greater connection with our true self, to access any knowledge that is necessary for our journey, including navigating difficult challenges.

    What “access to all knowledge” might mean, in the context of this paradigm is, access to all knowledge that we NEED at a particular time, to successfully prevail and move forward in our life journey. Of course this does not mean that education, training, reading a book on Chaos Theory, attending a conference, etc., aren’t important. On the contrary, all these are examples of taking right actions that out true self may be prompting us to do in order to best move forward on the path toward “success” and fulfillment. The question then follows, “Do we sufficiently listen and then follow what our true self is whispering amidst the loud clamoring of false self? (now back to purpose)

    Perhaps, an increased sense of purpose evolves and blooms forth, as our regular self learns to listen more effectively to our true self, a process which slowly dismantles the false self “hold” on our regular self, freeing our regular self to better access all the knowledge we need to navigate all career-life roles throughout our life journey. As this occurs, our regular self further evolves and moves closer to that state of transcendence, that Spirit that somehow connects us all. We now experience Being one with all else, and our journey was mediated by our true self.

    Work and other social relationships may be “practice” for the real connection that already exists between our individual evolving regular self that more fully becomes aware of its connection to true self, thus providing a more perfect harmony, to quote you, “being at one with the universe”. While experiencing harmony with others through a wide variety of social relationships is satisfying and growthful, one also experiences harmony alone in meditation, or being alone in nature (the break or trip you suggest as a way to re-soul).

    Of course we are never alone, and when we are “physically” alone, such as in meditation or in nature, we are the most connected and feeling the most harmony, with all else in the universe.

    Thomas Keating writes about this is an very helpful way. The following link provides an overview, a specific summary of True and False Self, afflictive emotions, the spiritual journey, PLUS an additional special link to a brief video (3 minutes) that is very helpful.

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  9. norman amundson

    Jim, some very wise words. I love the metaphor of re-souling our lives through work involvement. In Canada there is a tradition in government of the Finance minister buying a new set of shoes when a new budget is introduced. For the last budget the Finance minister had his shoes re-soled / a symbolic gesture of building something new in the most cost effective and efficient matter. While I don’t particularly agree with the politics of the Finance minister I did think it was a great metaphor reflecting integration of the old with the new.
    I think what you are doing is laying a foundation for what could properly be called career wisdom. Keep up the good work.

  10. Warren Maynard

    you are correct. without connections we die. solitary confinement shows us this. to hurt a soul you cut it off from contact with other like minded souls but to fully and completely destroy a soul it must be cut off from any form of contact with any another soul. It is death by degrees as the soul turns in on itself and is consumed. the only possible way to escape…now that would be telling wouldn’t it.

  11. David Lindskoog

    A great post with a catchy title – imagine that!

    I’ve always felt somewhat reserved about the idea of “calling.” Perhaps this is because I don’t feel I’ve found mine yet, perhaps the idea of a calling seems a bit pre-determined to me, I’m not entirely sure.

    I definitely resonate with your description of purpose and harmony, however. I had never thought of these kinds of concepts under the same umbrella before – it’s a refreshing take!

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