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What Makes Our Work Purposeful?

Seafarer Mama/Karen is an activist who cares deeply about social, economic and environmental justice.

Is Work the Same as Employment?

What is Work?

If someone works, does that mean the person is employed, i.e. they have a job? If someone is not employed, does that mean the person does not work? Is what we do only considered work if we don't particularly like it? What about all of the people we read about who love the work that they do and are paid for it, to boot?

Humans Need to be Occupied with Something

We humans are made to be occupied with something. We are active learners and working at a task is how we learn. From adding numbers to looking at one-celled organisms through a microscope, we learn about our world by interacting with it, and those interactions take energy. The energy we expend to get something done is considered work.

Some people work at a type of skilled labor for an employer who pays them. Some people do the same type work for themselves. Yet, if we didn't need to work for money to pay bills, what would we do with our time? I know what I would do. I would do more of what I already do with my time.

Do we receive payment for all of the work we do?

When you are not working for an employer, do you stop working? I am not making a distinction between work you enjoy and work that just needs to be done. Both are included in this. If you are unemployed and are seeking employment, that endeavor requires a certain amount and type of work. But whether or not you are employed, do you stop doing any work once your hours of employment or your employment search have ended for the day? Do you have work you do at home that you are not paid for? Is some of that work pleasurable? For me, the answer is yes. I write, garden, practice playing my musical instruments, sail, paint, and home-school my daughter. All of those activities require focus and energy, and some require physical labor, yet my reward is the pleasure I receive by doing them.

Are there other rewards for the work you do?

Sometimes I need to engage in activities for many hours, like painting or writing, before I am paid for them in the form of someone buying what I have made. I receive payment for doing what I love, but there is sometimes a delay in that payment. What I don't have to wait for is the reward of pleasure in working on and completing the work in the first place. Cooking has the same appeal for me. I don't try to earn an income for what I love to do in the kitchen, but my family, friends, and neighbors enjoy what I make and that is what I find meaningful. My favorite dishes to create come from the food I grow in my own gardens.

Is a Career the Same as a Purpose?

Does your career have a mission that you are passionate about? What factors made you choose your career profession? Has your career choice grown organically from the work you are passionate about? If not totally, does your career hold some aspect that you find pleasure in? Have you been inspired to make a difference in the world by a teacher or a friend, or a civic hero? Or was it expected that you take the mantel of a profession that was handed down to you by a predecessor, such as a parent?

What Is Your Purpose?

Do you feel that the career you have chosen fulfills a purpose for yourself and others? That does not mean a desire that a marketer persuades potential consumers to develop. I am talking about a human need that you fulfill, driven by a passion for that endeavor. Does your work come from deep in our heart?

What Do You Do That Is Driven By Your Most Passionate Interests?

I have always loved writing, making music, and creating colorful visual images with a variety of media. I did attend graduate school and trained to be a teacher, but I express my purpose best by home-schooling my daughter and tutoring children who are stuck in their learning process. I feel one of my purposes is to keep the fires of passion for learning burning in the hearts of every human I meet, especially children. It is the children who continue to love to learn who will be the healers and trailblazers of the future.

My Purpose Is Making Beautiful Art!

An autumn scene coaster I made and sold at a craft fair

An autumn scene coaster I made and sold at a craft fair

My "Center of the Labyrnth" pastel, which I loved creating and appears on blank cards that I sell

My "Center of the Labyrnth" pastel, which I loved creating and appears on blank cards that I sell

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What if We Changed Our Culture?

What would happen if the status quo about what types of work are valued more than others became scrambled and young artists began receiving more payment for what they do?

What if janitors and house cleaners were paid the same as dock foremen and Silicon Valley executives? Would we think about the people who do those types of work differently? Would we still value one person over the other based on what they do "for a living"?

Which livelihoods would you consider the most valuable and deserving of higher pay? What if teachers, healers, and those to create sustainable energy sources earned more than those who create violent video games or broadcast news of questionable reliability?

Universal Income for a Universal Sense of Purpose

I have read articles and watched videos by people who have proposed a restructuring of our economy based on all citizens receiving a basic universal income. Everyone would receive a set amount of money deposited in their bank accounts to use for paying bills. All of their health care would be taken care of by the state and the money they receive would be expected to cover food. This money would not be taxed. At the moment, the proposed yearly stipend is $10,000, which would be divided into 12 monthly installments of $833 each. Would you be able to live on $833 a month? Would you be able to manage your debts? Would you be able to stop the debt cycle by only spending what you have? Hundreds of dollars are pulled out of citizens' pockets each month through credit card companies charging 21% interest on account balances. What if you could erase that factor? Would you be able to live on the universal income?

Citizens would have the right to find work that pays them more, with a maximum of $30,000 taxable income before their monthly allocation is reduced. There would be brackets so that those who earn more through employment would receive less of the monthly universal income, since their need would be reduced. Those in higher income brackets would be taxed more so that basic public services are maintained.

Would more students stay in school and pursue their dreams if they didn't need to find work to support the family? Would less children become victims of drug addiction and gang violence? Would more people feel connected to each other as humans?

The Work I Do That Has Value

Knitted camera pouch

Knitted camera pouch

Image of a rainbow taken at our local train station after a summer storm

Image of a rainbow taken at our local train station after a summer storm

What Would You Do With Your Time?

What if everyone, no matter what they do now for a living, were paid a universal basic income that permitted them to not have to seek employment outside the home? What do you think would happen? What impact would that have on society?

What Would Your Life Look Like?

What would your life look like on a basic universal income? I know what mine would look like. I'd spend my days gardening, painting, making music, walking labyrinths, writing my novel, reading, and home-schooling my daughter. I'd volunteer at our local botanical garden. I'd be able to send her to camp and to attend camp myself. My husband would be able to do the same. He wouldn't need to spend so much of his income on transportation and clothes for work. He'd be able to work at a more local museum and bicycle everywhere he needs to go.

Keep a Journal With You Always

If you feel stuck when you think about what you'd want your life to look like in the next year, or five, a notebook is a great way to start. I have many notebooks and journals. They help me to process information. When I need to work out an idea, I write out my thoughts and feelings around it. I always carry a pocket-sized notebook in my bag so that I can write when I have down time in my car between errands I need to drive between, or on the train to Boston on days that I work.

A notebook is not just for a writer, though. Many creative, organized people in a variety of fields use notebooks to keep track of what they want to accomplish, how far they've come, and the steps they still need to take to reach their goals.

Also, Fasting Is Good for the Soul

In addition to writing in a journal and beginning to do more of what you love, I suggest fasting from media exposure. Our connection to media keeps us thinking in terms of what those in power value. If we take a step back and think for ourselves what we want our lives to look like, and listen to our inner voices more, we may start trailblazing in a direction that brings us closer to our most authentic selves. Right now I am reading A New Earth: Reawakening Your Life's Purpose, by Eckhart Tolle. His writing very engaging and accessible and his overlying message lies in our listening to our own breathing and letting go of the chatter in our minds that prevents us from truly experiencing the beauty in this world and living each moment of our lives.

Please Comment and Share Your Ideas

Please comment and share what your days would look like if you could start afresh with a universal income. Would you keep working at what you are doing or would you turn your life upside down and make a significant shift? What do you yearn to do more of with your spare time? Are you a person who wonders why more people aren't earning a livelihood for doing what they love?

Types of Work and Their Purpose

I have listed a few, not necessarily in order of importance to society. Feel free to let me know if there is one that I missed that is important to you.

Type of WorkPurpose the Work Fulfills


Cultivates plants and soil; Produces food that people eat

Gardener or Botanist

Grows flowers and plants for beauty and education


Studies and takes care of the health of trees


Cares for and rides horses for transportation and sport


Creates beautiful things with raw materials


Maintains ships as they travel across the seas


Informs and/or entertains through use of the written words

Software Engineer; Computer Programmer

Creates ways for people to communicate and to complete work faster


Helps citizens defend against accusations of wrongdoing through the use of written and verbal legal langage


Extinguishes fires to prevent harm to people and property; rescues people who are trapped

Police Officer

Protects citizens from harm and upholds the laws of safety


Desgins homes and other types of buildings for specific types of use


Connects the wires that makes machinery work

Do you like to Work?

A Book with a Purpose

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2016 Karen A Szklany


Karen A Szklany (author) from New England on January 30, 2018:

That's a good exercise to complete, Bev. Another idea is to draw it out. I have done that and it helps me with visualization. Glad you found some benefit in this article.

Bev G from Wales, UK on January 30, 2018:

Very thought-provoking, Karen. I like the idea of a universal income. I've heard of this before. Perhaps they were thinking about it in France? Can't remember. I think I am going to write out my life as if I didn't have to worry about earning enough to live. Thank you :)

Karen A Szklany (author) from New England on January 28, 2018:


I hope you success in your goal to work from home while home-schooling your sun and daughter. Time with them is so precious, so why not enjoy every moment we can with them. :0) My daughter is my music in so many ways.

L Izett from The Great Northwest on January 28, 2018:

My daughter faired well in the public school system, but not my son who just entered Kindergarten. It's been a mess, partly because he is kind and smart, which should be good qualities, but they are terrible for surviving public school. I did a lot of freelance to stay at home. I will probably take my son and maybe my daughter out to home school them next school year.

Karen A Szklany (author) from New England on January 27, 2018:

Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on my hub, Laura. Our children are young for such a short time and they keep us young. My #1 goal right now is to be able to work from home so that my daughter can return to home-schooling in the fall. Her entrance into public school culture has been remarkably wrought with misery.

In time, I think that the various types of work I am doing to make a living will come together to paint a bigger picture, but I'm patient. I'm glad you have found work from home that is satisfying in its own right, in addition to allowing you to stay home with your children.

L Izett from The Great Northwest on January 27, 2018:

Great hub! I’ve always been interested in purpose. I think it changes over time. I definitely think people are better off being aware of their purpose. You reuse a lot of good questions and points in this hub. I used to be connected to my career and money then when I had kids that became #1. I took part time jobs from home so I could be with them, and finally last year I combined everything. Work from home that actually fulfills my purpose of helping people rather than just makes money AND be home for the kids.

Karen A Szklany (author) from New England on March 08, 2017:

Hi Mary ~ thank you for writing. I hope we can keep that conversation going, too.

Mary Norton on March 07, 2017:

This has been our recommendation for years now, the distribution of income. We are not activists and we have the means to do what we like but still, we want others to be able to do the same. At least, a guaranteed income for everyone to live comfortably and be able to pursue more creative endeavours. And this can be done if some people stop being so greedy as to have so much. One can only spend so much. One doesn't need billions to do so. Some governments are already looking into this and we hope that if we keep the conversation going, we can make this happen.

Karen A Szklany (author) from New England on August 28, 2016:

So glad you enjoyed reading my thoughts on work and purpose, Rolly!


Rolly A Chabot from Alberta Canada on August 26, 2016:

Hi Seafarer Mama...

All work is with purpose and reason as I have considered fir years. Some may not appear to be as purposeful as maybe another but when you combine all work done it has real meaning.

It is a pleasure to see that you have expanded your world through writing and art and being so creative... well done... great hub...

Hugs and Blessings from Canada

Karen A Szklany (author) from New England on August 24, 2016:

Thank you, teaches! Glad you enjoyed my hub. I hope you continue to enjoy many hours working at the activities you enjoy most!

Dianna Mendez on August 20, 2016:

You've given us food for thought. I don't necessarily need a job but I do need to fill my time with activities I enjoy. Those activities must also provide an avenue for me to use my God-given talent to fulfill my purpose. You do bring beauty to our world with your creative art.

Karen A Szklany (author) from New England on August 15, 2016:

Thank you for reading and leaving your thoughts, primisem. Congratulations on your anticipated retirement. I hope it'll be a happy, satisfying time for you.

promisem on August 13, 2016:

Seafarer, I enjoyed reading your Hub. It's a topic that I have thought about quite a bit as I get near the end of my own career.

For me, work has a purpose if it makes a difference in the lives of other people and if it makes our communities better places to live.

Karen A Szklany (author) from New England on August 13, 2016:

Thank you very much, Vocalcoach! I'm glad you enjoyed my hub and I am honored that you intend to share it.

Good to know that your career is also your passion, too.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on August 12, 2016:

An incredible hub! My work is my passion...I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve and help others through my work. Music is the universal language, healing the mind, body and spirit.

I'm passing your out-standing hub on to others. Thank you Karen.


Karen A Szklany (author) from New England on August 12, 2016:

@Jodah ~ So glad you liked my hub and for responding! We seem to have a bunch of interests in common.

@threekeys ~ Thank you, my new friend. I'd cook more, too, especially big meals for my co-housing neighbors.

@billybuc ~ Welcome back, my friend. It's good that you keep yourself busy. But is there anything you would do differently? Anything new that you wish you had more time to do? I would keep myself busy, too. I get restless when I am sitting for a long time. That's why I listen to audio CD's of books ~ so that I can have my hands free to work on something. ~:0) That's also why we love having hamsters as pets; hamsters are a good pet for busy hands. They love to walk rapidly along our arms and hands, which keeps them moving (both hamster and hands), and is a way of bonding. ~:0) LOL!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 12, 2016:

Great discussion, my friend. I know I would go crazy without work. I'm not a man of leisure. I'll probably be doing a new chore when my time comes to an end.. :)

threekeys on August 12, 2016:

I loved this hub!

Yes if we had a Universal Income it would shift things around for me. I may reduce or stop my Futurist intrigues so I would probably stop being involved or interested in Cartomancy and the Metaphysical Arts/Religion. Instead? I would be immersed in creating pieces that I felt would add a dose of beauty and harmony to the world. I would write paint do photography grow beautiful flowers grow organic food to eat...and cook more for others..thats just a few things ..

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on August 11, 2016:

This is a wonderful hub. A universal set income would be great, and people wouldn't be judged by the type of work they did. If all your basic bills were paid for you could easily live in that set amount and it would be much fairer. I would still spend most of my time writing, gardening etc. maybe I'd do a little more travelling.

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