What Makes Our Work Purposeful?
Is Work the Same as Employment?
What is Work?
If someone works, does that mean the person is employed, i.e. s/he has 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.
I am a Writer, Artist & Gardener
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 professon? 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!
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
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?
What I would do with my time ~
Types of Work and Their Purpose
Type of Work
Purpose 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
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?
If you were given a choice, would you hold a job?
A Book with a Purpose
This book engages and inspires I pick it up to read every spare moment I have. Tolle's writing is accessible and engaging. He encourages all of his readers to take time to let go of extraneous thoughts and just be. He is also the author of "The Power of Now."
© 2016 Karen Szklany Gault