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Excerpted from How to Find the Work You Love by Laurence Boldt. Copyright 1996 by Laurence Boldt. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"We have become fixated on the economic value of work to the exclusion of virtually all other values."

Laurence Boldt, How to Find the Work You Love, Part 3

Certainly, the need for the wisdom reflected in the traditional understanding of vocational choice has never been greater; yet it has been all but forgotten amidst the hubbub of modern commercial culture. We have become fixated on the economic value of work to the exclusion of virtually all other values. Perhaps the simplest way of illustrating this is to consider what is generally regarded as a good job. For most people today, a good job means good pay, good benefits, and security. Little is said about the content or the quality of the work itself, let alone about the joy of expressing one's unique talents or the sense of meaning that comes from serving others.

When we contrast the prevailing notion of career success with any a number of traditional theories of vocational choice, the modem view seems one-dimensional and shallow. Traditional theories of vocation were not necessarily more complicated, but they did reflect a deeper and more mature philosophy. Consider as an example of traditional vocational theory a simple formula given by the Greek philosopher Aristotle. He said, "Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation." This simple statement tells you everything you need to know to find the work you love.

Like any theory for making vocational choice, it reflects a philosophy of life--a set of values. In the final analysis, we cannot answer the question, What am I here to do? without in some way answering the question, Who am I? For example, when we select pay, benefits, and job security as the key criteria for vocational choice, we are reflecting a set of values (whether we are conscious of it or not) that equates the individual quest for material comfort with the ultimate purpose of human existence. The implicit assumption is that human happiness and material comfort are one and the same. On the other hand, to suggest that when making vocational choices, we ought to look for an intersection between our individual talents and the needs of the world implies that human happiness springs from individual creative expression and meaningful participation in the life of society.

Within Aristotle's simple formula, there ties a profound understanding of human nature. In effect, he is saying that because we are social beings, we ought to look to, become aware of, and identify the needs of the world; and because we are individuals, we ought to look to, become aware of, and identify our own unique talents. Furthermore, he is suggesting that these two elements of our nature not only can but in fact ought to be in harmony.

The decision as to what your career is to be is a very deep and important one, and it has to do with something like a spiritual. requirement and commitment. Joseph Campbell

As social beings, our interest in the needs of the world is not a matter of doing good for others out of a sense of largess. It's a matter of being true to ourselves. It comes with recognizing that, as Herman Mellville put it, "we cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow-men; and along those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects." In the end, we are the world, and our individual choices, taken together, create the world we live in. The work of creating a better world begins not with government programs or revolutionary movements but with the thoughts, feelings, and actions of individuals.

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