The Art of Work: The Practicality and the Spirituality of Work

The Art of Work: The Practicality and the Spirituality of Work

"Your success in life does not altogether depend on ability and training.
It also depends on your determination to grasp opportunities
that are presented to you." 
-- Paramahansa Yogananda

Work is the use of energy, skills or personal resources to bring about desired results in an undertaking, enterprise, endeavor, or job. Despite what our culture tends to preach all work can be meaningful, if you approach it with the right attitude (with love and respect for others).

Some people may feel that they have wasted time in unrewarding work-related tasks. It does not have to be that way, if you can find the meaning that position may hold for you. Often, when we have a job we don't particularly like, we become depressed.

Many people think it is "beneath" them to perform the menial tasks in life. But all work is valuable, and in order to find meaning in your work, you must first find the lesson. Perhaps you were meant to have that experience, so that you could learn something else -- a skill or personal quality that will be helpful to you in the future.

Working Consciously with Pure Intent and Service

Buddha said, "Right livelihood is work done consciously with pure intent and service." The work that is performed is a direct reflection of society's standards and values, which gets filtered down to the individual -- we do the work that is available, which is the work that is viewed as important. For instance, we used to think that manufacturing products was a priority. Now we think servicing customers is a priority.

As society's mores and values become more complex and differentiated, people are deciding for themselves what work needs to be done and then creating their own opportunities. I think it is safe to say that work in the 21st century is in the process of reinvention. For example, for a long time "society" did not think conserving and preserving our natural resources was important, but now tens of thousands of people have created their life's work based on environmental issues.

In the Industrial Age, the richest person in the world owned natural resources. In the Information Age, the richest person in the world owns information/knowledge. And the business of retrieving, storing, and disseminating information is what our high-tech, cyber world is all about. From the farms to the factories, work meant long hours and hard labor in exchange for the feeling of a job well done and a paycheck. Today, people are getting very rich who have put in very little (if any) blood, sweat, or tears into their daily work. Thanks (or no thanks) to the Internet, companies are going public at the blink of an eye and twenty-one-year olds are becoming instant millionaires. Obviously, this new worker has put to rest the old idea of "working hard pays off."

Now more than ever, "what is work?" is an interesting question because all of our ideas about what is important and how to "make it" in the world of work are changing. Our ideas about how one should earn a living are changing. In the "good ole days," it took a long time to earn a fortune. Nowadays, we live in a get rich quick world, where people spend millions upon millions of dollars on lottery tickets and hope to get on game shows that feature everyday, ordinary people becoming instant millionaires.

What is Your Concept of Work?

Defining what your concept of work is will enable you to create your life's work. Stop and think about the who, what, where, when and why do you want to work? And try to consider what would be a healthy fit for you? Be sure to consider your life vision and life purpose statements when you answer these questions.

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Who do you want to work with?

Children, teenagers, adults? Upper, middle, or lower class? Similar or different background?

What kind of work do you want to do?

Self Employed: Work at home or at an office? Travel?

Organization Employed: Small, medium, large? Corporate? Non-profit?

Project-Employed: Free-lance? Contractor? Consultant?

Where do you want to work?

Inside or outside? For a small company or Fortune 500? In a big city or small town?

When do you want to work?

Day or night? Full-time, part-time, or temporary? Year round or seasonal?

Why do you want to work?

For the challenge? Money/benefits? Opportunity to share your gifts?

Of course keep in mind your overall lifestyle. How much money do you need to earn in order to live the kind of life you want? The smart thing to do is to live within your means and create a career that allows you to have the time to enjoy other things in life.

What Most People Need From Work

  1. A sense of meaning in the work they perform
  2. Appropriate challenge and stimulation
  3. A work environment that adds to their overall life happiness and balance between autonomy and support
  4. The opportunity to apply their ksa's (knowledge, skills, and abilities)
  5. Appropriate feedback and recognition (either from a supervisor or customers)
  6. Fair pay, benefits/perks
  7. Enjoyable work activities
  8. Professional development opportunities

Do You Work to Live or Live to Work?

What kind of worker are you? Someone who has a balance between working and living? Or are you a workaholic? As spiritual beings, we are meant to seek happiness. Fulfillment comes from many sources, work is simply one of them. Is it important not to let society's standards of the 50-60 hour work week dictate how you work.

As a society, we need to learn to relax. All work and no play is making us dull. Due to overwork and more time constraints, we are not fully living or working at our peak potential. How is it that Americans barely get two weeks of vacation a year and Europeans enjoy a month of "holiday" every year? In fact, we have been taught to be rugged individualists, fiercely independent people who have to fight for everything we get. We want to direct our destiny and be the master of our domain, which can be helpful in most cases. But when we go against nature, we go against ourselves.

When it comes to modern career development, I advocate "becoming," which is a lifelong process of following your intuition and keeping your skills updated as the best way to stay employed. But most career development programs and counselors focus on what "job" or "title" you want to hold. Just look at the pressure we put on children to be productive, and to make major decisions and choices. It is somewhat frightening that as early as nine or ten, we are asking what little Johnny wants to be when he grows up. Some of the most interesting people I have met who are in their 50's and 60's still haven't figured that one out!

College is another place where career plans and expectations are forced on young people. Having worked with college students for several years, I cannot tell you how many of them choose majors and careers because of parental pressure, rather than basing it on what felt right to them. What is going on here? Does it really matter if you don't know exactly what you want to do in the world of work while you are still in school? College is a time for exploration and discovery, not limiting, premature career/life decisions. The fact is most people will not be staying in the same job they had when they first got out of college. But if they haven't learned how to become, then they will continue to believe they have to choose one thing.

Sad to say, grownups don't get much of a break either. Adult students who return to school to finish a degree, seldom return because they want to know more about the world or themselves, or to learn for the sake of learning, but rather to get "a better job." The mindset here is that a better job leads to a better life, which may or may not be true. Believe it or not, it is o.k. not to have everything figured out about life! The best we can do is to stay centered in who we are and what we have to offer, and feel positive about the uncertainty of life. We put too much pressure on ourselves to know exactly what we want and how to get it -- to have all the answers. What we should be cultivating in our children is a different focus. Instead of concentrating on what they want to be, or what we want them to be, let's focus on helping them realize who they want to become.

The question really comes down to not the "how" of work, but the "why?" There are two main applications.

The Practicality of Work (Human Application)

When Humans are @Work, we work:

To provide service to others

To provide sufficient financial support to live our lives comfortably

To create products and services for our consumption

Because the world is changing and we are experiencing shifts in demographics and economics, and becoming a more global society with an emphasis on technology -- we have to consciously decide what kind of world we want to leave to our grandchildren.

People who work with half a heart and/or only for the end result (the pay-check) are not only doing a disservice to themselves, but to others as well.

The Spirituality of Work (Soul Application)

When our Spirit is @Work, we work:

To express our soul

To elevate the state of society, so we can enjoy the fruits of our labors

To move us forward on our path towards enlightenment

Where there is a large majority of underemployed people, it negatively impacts on society as a whole. Human beings need to feel they are giving and sharing with others in a meaningful way, which means all people have an inherent need to do some kind of work.

People who work with passion and presence are soulful workers. That is because they share their full selves with others, no matter what work they may be performing.

Soulful Work

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "The one thing in the world of value, is the active soul." In other words, a person who is actively living, working, and loving in this world is making a real contribution. How can we contribute to a better workplace? How can we bring more of our Spirit to our work? By sharing more of our real selves with others, by being aware of what our purpose is, and by doing our work in a loving way. If part of our mission is to evolve to a higher level of awareness -- of being -- by learning important lessons, then we need to become more aware of the power of choice. Sometimes we may choose to learn our lessons the easy way, sometimes the hard way. In work, we have inevitably learned our lessons both ways. When we consciously create our life's work, our soul has the opportunity to learn more meaningful ways to express itself.

As enlightened beings, we will not confuse our job or titles with who we really are. We will know that our Spirit is meant to learn and experience many things, and that everything in life is temporary (even a bad job or situation). We will realize that Oliver Wendell Holmes was right when he said, "Every calling is great, when greatly pursued. "

Buddha taught that the only reality is impermanence and change. And that it is best not to resist. (No wonder the Buddha looks so relaxed!) The way we choose to approach our life's work impacts on how fulfilled we feel, and our overall effect on others. The more we can bring our Spirit into our work, the more soulful the experience for all. When we care about the work we do, no matter how menial the task, we pay attention to the details and take pride in our craftsmanship.

Creating meaningful work springs from problems or issues that need to be solved or addressed. Many of which come from "socially responsible" contexts. Sunny Hansen, in her book Integrative Life Planning, offers several ideas for different areas that could use a helping hand:

  • Utilizing Technology Constructively
  • Preserving the Environment
  • Understanding Family and Work Changes
  • Reducing Violence
  • Advocating for Human Rights
  • Accepting Changing Gender Roles
  • Valuing Human Diversity
  • Discovering New Ways of Knowing

When you are doing your life's work, it will feel almost like play because it will be so enjoyable and rewarding. It's as if your work is your hobby and your hobby is your work. When you are sharing your gifts and talents, time flies! Unlike when you have a job, the time drags, and you have to know exactly the "right" way to do something. Working on projects for your life's work keeps you wondering how and what to do next. In fact, you are not exactly sure where you are going with it, rather it evolves as you get further into it.

Your life's work, like your entire life, does not have a specific direction or map. It just shows up and you have to follow it. I know that when I am called to write, I simply must do it. I don't really know where I'm headed with it, but I'm not concerned. The next step in my process comes from my intuitive self, and I follow my inner guide. The "message" flows naturally and effortlessly as a result. When you are working on purpose, instead of going through the motions, the motions go through you. You flow with your work and your work flows through you. In fact, the work will show you how to do it. This quote from an unknown author sums up how you will surely feel when you are doing your life's work:

"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which, he simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether is working or playing. To himself, he always seems to be doing both."

The Modern World of Work

Since the modern world of work is rapidly changing to keep up with the demands of our fast-paced lives and lifestyles, here are some characteristics of what the new work contract will look like:

  • Seeking more meaning from work.
  • Equating "career success" with personal satisfaction over paycheck or status.
  • More self-employment, short-term and contractual work.
  • Everyone will need their own "name-brand."
  • Striving for life balance
  • Increased use of technology.
  • Finding work that needs doing.
  • Changing in the way management and leadership is conducted (less arrogance at the top level, more power on lower levels).
  • Increased need for networking and self-marketing.
  • Lifelong "trying on" of various roles, jobs, and industries.
  • Creating a plan that is flexible, and continually assessing the "fit" of the work.
  • Increased representation of women and minorities in the workforce.
  • Changing career fields numerous times in a lifetime.
  • Self-responsibility: Everyone knowing they have to chart their own career direction.
  • Dedication to quality customer service in all career fields.
  • Emphasis on lifelong learning.

Advantages of the Modern World of Work

  • More career opportunities for everyone!
  • Freedom to choose from a variety of jobs, tasks, and assignments!
  • More flexibility in how and where work is performed, i.e. working from home or telecommuting!
  • More control over your own time!
  • Greater opportunity to express yourself through your work!
  • Ability to shape and reshape your life's work in accordance with your values and interests!
  • Increased opportunity to develop other skills by working in various industries and environments!
  • Self-empowerment mindset!
  • Allows you to create situations or positions where you can fill a need in the world that is not being filled!
  • Opportunity to present yourself as an independent contractor or vendor with services to offer!

Top Ten Skills For the New World of Work

1. Communication

The ability to effectively communicate your thoughts and ideas in person, on paper, and over the telephone. To listen to others and be open to other viewpoints and opinions.

2. Creativity

The ability to think and act "out of the box." To discover new and innovative ways of thinking and doing things.

3. Technology

The ability to understand and utilize computer systems, the latest software, etc. To use the computer in your daily life and on the job.

4. Team Work

The ability to work effectively in a team situation. To be able to utilize the right people to get the best results. To be willing to lead and to follow.

5. Flexibility

The ability to "go with the flow." To change on an as-needed basis. To become multi-task oriented, to be able to change hats frequently.

6. Information Management

The ability to know where to get needed information. To be able to search, locate, and retrieve information. To utilize various resources, whether they be people, printed materials, or the vast world of technology.

7. Self Management

The ability to manage oneself in personal and professional situations. To be able to respond appropriately to stressful situations.

8. Customer Care

The ability to care about the needs and concerns of other people, especially those you serve. To "go the extra mile" for your customers or clients.

9. Character

The ability to project a positive image by acting in a manner that reflects trust, confidence, honesty, and integrity.

10. Personal Development

The ability to continuously improve upon one's skill set. To be dedicated to lifelong learning.

Journal Assignment

Are you ready for the modern world of work? What skills do you possess that make you marketable? What skills can you develop?

Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Get Smart Publishing. ©2000.

Article Source

Get Smart! About Modern Career Development
by Michelle L. Casto.

Another Book by this author

The Destiny Discovery: Find Your Soul's Path to Success
by Casto, Michelle.

The Destiny Discovery: Find Your Soul's Path to Success by Casto, Michelle.In this enlightening book, Michelle L. Casto combines her proven Destiny Discovery Process and professional expertise in personal transformation and career guidance, to take you on an exciting journey of discovery toward the destiny that already lives in your heart. There are more than a dozen practical exercises, tools and insights in this book that will guide you to transform hidden self-limiting thoughts and beliefs, increase your self-knowledge, and empower you be your greatness.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book.

About the Author

Michelle L. Casto

Michelle L. Casto is a Whole Life Coach who resides in Atlanta, Georgia. She holds a Master of Education from the University of South Carolina, a Bachelor of Science degree from Ohio University, and is a Certified Career Development and Customer Service Instructor, who has taught and counseled students at several major universities in the southeastern United States. As a writer, speaker, and trainer, she specializes in the areas of Romantic Relationships, Gender Communication, Career Development, Customer Service, and Stress Management. Visit her website at

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