“Must”, “It’s Impossible”, “I’ll try” and other Tyrants

Lately I have been working a lot with young people. Students. Members in NGOs or student organisations. Some on their first job. Other interns in different companies. Beautiful, curious, intelligent, ambitious, willing to learn. Every time my workshops are an invitation to introspection. We talk about authenticity, emotions, personal values, mission in life. It’s a difficult exercise even for people more experienced, let alone for 19-20 year olds who are just starting in their life journey. I’m always happy to see how bravely the throw themselves into these inner conversations despite their youth, or maybe because of it. Then I feel their confusion and even fear when the answers they give themselves to the question “Who am I” don’t match what they have been taught to believe is “normal”, “good”, “compulsory”, “possible”.  “There is no job where I can be completely happy, I need to compromise if I want to be successful”. “I will be happy when I get really high up on the corporate ladder and for that I need to work hard on the things I’m good at, not necessarily on what I like”. “Money comes first on my list of values, but that’s only normal at 21; now I have to find the highest paying job possible so I can raise enough money to have my own business by the time I turn 25”. “You can’t do only what you dream in life”. “I can’t see myself doing the job I studied for, but I have to carry on because I’m to scared to try something else”. “My parents told me that life is not easy and I need to fight and make sacrifices if I want to succeed”. “I was told that these are my talents and this is the most appropriate career for me, the one that will make me successful”.  These are all statements I heard over time from young people that I worked with. And not seldom did I leave these workshops with a nagging question: When exactly...

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Do You Have a Job, a Career or a Vocation? Or…Science’s Lessons for Putting “Meaning” Into “Work”

Feb 14, 11 Do You Have a Job, a Career or a Vocation? Or…Science’s Lessons for Putting “Meaning” Into “Work”

Posted by in Books, Psychology

Alexandra works in an office every day, from Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. Her first and foremost motivation is to earn enough money to be able to “live” after work – she uses her income to finance her hobby, painting, and to afford small joys – like going out with her friends, short weekend trips to the mountains and, once a year, a holiday abroad. If money were not a problem, she’d change jobs in an instant and do something different. To her, work is a necessity of life, like eating or sleeping, only less pleasant. She feels as if she pays a daily 8 hour fee in exchange for freedom after 5 pm. Alex is happiest on Fridays because the weekend is coming, and hates almost nothing more than the sound of the alarm clock on Monday mornings, announcing the beginning of another week. Diana enjoys her work, but doesn’t expect to do the same job a few years from now. Then she will definitely be higher up the corporate ladder, in a better paid position. She has clear objectives for her future and knows exactly what her next professional step will be. Even though sometimes her day to day work feels like a waste of time, the hope for promotion keeps her going. To her, being promoted is the ultimate recognition of her value and victory over the colleagues with whom she is competing. For Anna, work is a natural part of life. In fact, if you asked her, she’d tell you she’s not working, but is lucky enough to be paid for doing what she likes best. To her, there is no clear separation between work and leisure – the two make up a harmonious whole – and many of her friends are also colleagues at work. She would never conceive changing her profession, because it represents her and she honestly believes that what she does for a living actually has meaning and makes the world a better place. So…which...

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