In yoga class last week (which I snuck out of work early to get to), I was relieved to hear my yoga instructor say: “We must find meaning in our work. Without that, we are not fulfilled.” So simple and yet…I could not put this into words myself.
Back in February, I wrote an entry about my discontent about work. The culprit? Not enough money. Four months later and I realize that, after actively searching for jobs, money might not be the problem after all (don’t get me wrong…more money in our paychecks definitely eases the stress!). Instead, I’m suddenly cognizant of the fact that I cannot find meaning in my work anymore.
In Take This Job and Love It, Stephen Bodian writes:
No matter what your circumstances are, you may find that your work doesn’t quite live up to your expectations, much less your dreams. Perhaps you don’t get to engage your creative talents or your altruistic impulses, or you find your coworkers aggressive and unfriendly. Or perhaps you simply don’t enjoy your job and you’re not sure why….If you’ve pondered these questions, you’re exploring what has come to be known as right livelihood.Though the term derives from the Buddhist tradition, right livelihood has evolved to refer more broadly to any meaningful, fulfilling work that makes a positive contribution to the world and expresses a compassionate or sacred intent.
Right livelihood, as it turns out, is number five of eight principles on The Noble Eightfold Path in Buddhism. The path, which according to Buddhism is the way to end all suffering, is as follows:
1. Right View
2. Right Intention
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration
As strange as it may sound, it never occurred to me to think of my job as a step on the path to self-discovery until this very moment. I’ve always assumed that one must do what they’re good at…not necessarily what they want to do. Ask yourself this question: what kind of work would you be doing if you could do anything? Why are we so afraid to go after that? Fear? Fatigue? Not enough money? Whatever it may be, we know that the reality is this: for many of us, our jobs make it difficult to get through the day let alone make a contribution to society.
So the next time you find yourself looking for a job change, stop and think about right livelihood. It doesn’t just suggest that we choose any old career (according to The Noble Eightfold Path, jobs in weapon and human trading, or the manufacturing and selling of meat, intoxicants, and poisons are banned by this principle). It encourages us to select one that contributes to society in a useful and positive way, thereby giving us purpose…and putting us on the right path.