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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.

"Ultimately, the discovery of a life's work begins with the realization of what it means to be a human being."

Laurence Boldt, How to Find the Work You Love, Part 4

As individuals, we each comprise a unique constellation of talents, abilities, and innate interests. Working in a way that takes advantage of our unique talents, abilities, and interests means working with our strengths. Many people spend their whole lives working against their strengths--doing work not really suited to their abilities. The key is to find the work you were born to do--the one that takes full advantage of your special talents, interests, and abilities. This brings not only greater effectiveness but greater joy. On the other hand, to fail to express your own talents is not only to deny your individuality, but to withhold from the world those special gifts which you possess.

We cannot, then, separate our philosophy of life from the practical choices we make about career. If we make our career choices solely or even primarily on the basis of material comfort and, then complain that the world is too commercial, that people are too selfish, that our cultural life is bland and lacking creative vitality--it is simply because we have failed to recognize that we are the world. We are asking others to live by a standard we ourselves have failed to embrace.

Ultimately, the discovery of a life's work begins with the realization of what it means to be a human being--embracing what binds us all together and appreciating what makes each of us unique. As long as we deny that we are social beings and ignore the needs of the world, we miss the sense that our work is meaningful. We feel cut off, lonely, and alienated. As long as we deny our individuality and fail to develop and express our unique talents and gifts, we miss the joy of creative self-expression. We feel frustrated, repressed, and trapped. Simply put: To the extent that your work takes into account the needs of the world, it will be meaningful; to the extent that through it you express your unique talents, it will be joyful.

The quest for the work you love-it all begins with a few simple questions: Who am I? What in the world am I doing here? What is my special gift to give? Where it ends is up to you. To be satisfying, your answers must be more than mere philosophical speculation; they must become your life. Any philosophy, no matter how high-minded or grand, crumbles like a castle in the sand unless its principles are applied in everyday life. Doing the work you love means living your philosophy. It means putting, your values to work by determining to make what you do reflect who you really are.

The First of All Problems

It is the first of all problems for a man {or woman} to find out what kind of work he {or she} is to do in this universe. Thomas Carlyle

Finding out what work we are to do in this universe--Thomas Carlyle called. this "the first of all problems." It isn't difficult to understand why. The typical person will spend more of his or her adult life working than doing anything else. It is through our work, more than in any other way, that we express ourselves and participate in the life of society. Moreover, since it occupies so much of our time, energy, and attention and is so critical to our sense of psychological well-being and social fulfillment, the quality of our work experience deeply affects other areas of our lives. Finally, it is through our work that we receive the financial support necessary not only for survival but for the full enjoyment of life. We will briefly explore each of these aspects: work and the time of your life, work and the meaning of life, work and the rest of your life, and work and the riches of life.

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