How to Find Fulfilling Work by Roman Krznaric

The thought once occurred to me that if one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment, one at which the most fearsome murderer would tremble, shrinking from it in advance, all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning. – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Rob Archer had a good job as a management consultant but didn’t like what he was doing and hated the job because he couldn’t master it well. He worked long hours for 10 years. He felt guilty to be seeking stuff like meaning and couldn’t bear the uncertainty of starting fresh again. Sameera Khan was a lawyer and had a dream job. Yet she felt empty and meaningless. ‘What to do if you hate your career.’ Iain King had a topsy turvy career but eventually made it. He didn’t feel that he wanted to be a civil servant. He didn’t feel he was the conventional kind of guy. Fulfillment in a job is a modern invention. Most people usually struggle with subsistence and don’t care about their work. We want to trade up money to meaning. People expect more than a paycheck. Most people need trial and error to figure it out. A large percentage of the workforce are unhappy with their jobs. The first few is to get our expectations under control. In the past, people have been through hardship. ‘Grin and bear it’ attitude. That attitude is more of one of acceptance. The other view is to find work that is more life-enhancing. We should seek work that will allow us to express who we are. People are more affluent now and we have more choices in our lives. Work can be life-enhancing and broaden our horizons. What are the core elements of a fulfilling career? They are three ingredients: 1) meaning; 2) flow; and 3) freedom. First, learn to understand the fear that is associated with leaving your old job. Next, is to identify multiple selves and not limit your career choice. Act first, reflect later. The author has performed much research in this area. Why is it so difficult to choose a career path?

The yearning for a fulfilling career may have begun to permeate our expectations, but is it really possible to find a job in which we can thrive and feel fully alive? Is it not a utopian ideal reserved for the privileged few who can afford fancy education, who have the financial means to risk opening a baby-yoga café, or who have the social connections required to win the coveted prize of a job they love? – Roman Krznaric

But when somebody asks us the deadening question “What do you do?”, let us set our sights on giving an enlivening answer, which makes us feel that we are doing something truly worthwhile with our lives, rather than wasting away the years in a career that will leave the bitter taste of regret in our mouths. – Roman Krznaric

Freedom is tough when you have choices and you can’t decide what you want. Why is it so difficult to decide what path to embark on? Humans are not prepared to deal with too much choice. We need to identify the cause for such confusion. Benjamin Franklin had to follow what his parents decided for him early on. Even Karl Marx believed in the free seller of worker-power for each worker. At that time, jobs were mainly hard labour. A growing number of women entered the work force in the 1950s. Then, the problem of work-life balance existed. In the paradox of choice, people are not good at making decisions. Sometimes, we fear many the wrong decision and that causes us not to make a decision at all. The trick is to limit your options. The next is to lower your expectations. The education we have can also prevent us from pursuing more adventurous paths. That is why doctors rarely switch careers. Many young people at 18 do not know what they want in life. Sometimes, you don’t want your education to go to waste. There are sunk costs which you can’t ignore. People tend to regret the stuff they didn’t do although they wanted to. ‘If only I had…’ One way to decide is to go for personality tests. Frank Parsons believed career choice should be a scientific process and he performed head measurements on candidates. It then developed into IQ tests, personality tests etc. There have been many criticisms on the MBTI format. Personality tests do not predict one’s career success well. One would be better off trying career experiments instead.

Looking back now, it’s crazy. At 16 I wanted to be a lawyer. How on earth am I supposed to know that that is what I want to do for the rest of my life? I’m not going to be the same person I am at 16 as I am at 45. I’m going to have different values, opinions and motivations. – Sameera Khan

If there is anything worth fearing in the world, it is living in such a way that gives one cause for regret in the end. – A.C. Grayling

The 5 dimensions of meaning. They are earning money, achieving status, making a difference, following our passions and using our talents. The first two are extrinsic in nature and the last three are intrinsic. You must know where your priorities lie and what do you value more. Money alone will not be sufficient. Money is the oldest motivator in the business. Money and happiness are not closely linked. We may end up on the hedonic treadmill and can’t get out of it. People who lack security in their lives may turn to material things. Social status is something that we want as well. We also like to compare our positions in relation to others. Status can boost self-esteem. We should not be too concerned about what others think of us. Work should give you a sense of respect. It is important to feel respected. Work should allow you to make a difference. We all want to leave a mark. For example, one can dedicate his life to a greater cause. Work for a cause you deeply believe in. It is extremely frustrating if you can’t see any difference your work is making. There might be a conflict between making money and making a difference. Sometimes, going public might result in greater pressures for profit and lead to an erosion of company culture towards social responsibility. Cultivating talents and passions. The other way is to do what you’re good at. Match your greatest passion with work. Another dilemma is whether to specialize or to generalize. Specializing is good but the work can become repetitive and boring in nature. Another belief is that people can enjoy multiple careers. Leonardo da Vinci was successful when he worked on multiple careers at once. Another belief is to be a serial specialist. Imagine your many selves. Write down your map of choices. Imagine a parallel services. Write down your personal job advertisement and share it with others. Allow others to recommend jobs for you based on your underlying interests.

If you’re going to be good at anything, you’ve got to have tunnel vision. – Wayne Davies

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and play; his labour and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves other to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both. – Francois-Rene de Chateaubraind

We often lack the courage for changing jobs. Instead of plan and then take action, we should act now and then reflect later. Humans always fear failure. Why can’t we shake off uncertainty? Humans are extremely loss averse. How to have 30 jobs in one year? Someone tried to contact her friends and try to join them for a short period of a few days each time. There are 3 ways to do it: radical sabbatical; branching projects and conversational research. We can do work shadowing or volunteering or attend certain training courses to find out more. This is more progressive step towards your new career. The last way is simply to talk to people in the future career you want to be in. When we graduate, we only tend of taking the traditional paths. Shift your peer group and talk to different people. Conversational research is effective because it will allow you to connect with people better. You have to choose one of the 3. What gave you the best flow experience? We experience it when we are engaged in something. It usually applies to challenging tasks, but not impossibly difficult tasks. Sometimes, you need not change a career, but you can ask for more challenging tasks. However, this doesn’t apply to most jobs. You can also learn to create a flow diary. Flow and meaning are very important together.

The more jobs I try, the more I realize it’s not a rational process of listing criteria and finding a job that matches them. It’s a bit like dating. When I was single I had a mental list of qualities I thought my boyfriend should have. But some guys who met all the criteria on my list did nothing for me. And at one point you find someone who doesn’t meet half your checklist but blows you away…So maybe it’s not about thinking and planning, but about doing lots of job dating, trying things out until you feel a spark. – Laura van Bouchout

Then indecision brings its own delays, And days are lost lamenting over lost days. Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; What you can do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic to it. – Goethe

I don’t want to join the rat race. Not be enslaved by machines, bureaucracies, boredom and ugliness. I don’t want to be a moron, robot, commuter. I don’t want to become a fragment of a person. I want to do my own thing. I want to live (relatively) simply. I want to deal with people, not masks. People matter. Nature matters. Beauty matters. Wholeness matters. I want to be able to care. – E.F. Schumacher

Most people can relate to the quote above. Some people work long hours and hate listening to their boss. Should you try to be self-employed? Security and freedom is a balance that might be maintained. Many of the social movements have been based on freedom. Autonomy is very important to work. In a café, you can have more autonomy. One can try to be your own boss. For Ward, his heroes are those who have started their own business. It is possible to work in a large organization if you can set yourself targets. Self-employment is great because you know you can make a difference to others. Freedom is sweet and you won’t want to turn back. Invent your own job. Shape the way life to be. Wean yourself off the work ethic. Modern people work too hard and some believe that working hard will bring you closer to God. Instead of a fulfilling job, you might want a fulfilling life instead. Leisure activities can expand our human potential. There are predictions that people would only work 4 hours a day. Some people hold a day job to pursue their other ambitions in the evening. Thoreau and Dominguez adjusted their lifestyle to live frugally. Let to track your monthly expenses. People like to aim to ‘have it all’, both a family and a career. Think of it as society’s dilemma. The woman has to bear most of the load. The men ought to do their part to help out with the family. Men can also consider taking a break from work to take care of the kids. Having it all does not mean you must have it all at once. Take a long term view. Who knows? You may like another career after hanging around with your kids too much.

So many people live with unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. – Chris McCandless

When your income goes down from working less or taking a more fulfilling job, as a general rule your daily living expenses – on things like food, clothing and entertainment – will naturally contract to fit your new financial circumstances, and yet you will not feel any worse off. In fact, it is quite likely that you will feel life is better than ever, since you will be luxuriating in an abundance of that most precious commodity, time. – Roman Krznaric

The prize of soulful work. Find work that is soulful in nature. The three ingredients are: meaning, flow and freedom. Marie Curie did talk about the meaning of life. A vocation is not something we find, it’s something we grow into. A vocation should drive you to get up every morning. One must have a clear goal and purpose. We should all be struggling for a goal in life. Status and money mattered little to Marie Curie and she absolutely loved to work. Use your intellectual talents to achieve something. A vocation does not result from an epiphany. Some people would have done their research but will still hesitant to pursue a new career. Stop thinking and just do it. You can try writing your own obituary. Life is about taking risks and it is to be lived with passion.

Life is not easy for all of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained. – Marie Curie

Good books to explore: The Age of Fulfillment; Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Evolution of Work by Richard Donkin; Affluenza by Oliver James; The Corrosion of Character by Richard Sennett; In Working Identity by Herminia Ibarra; Anarchy in Action by Colin Ward; Screw Work, Let’s Play by John Williams; In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell.

Fulfilling-career

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