In my journal this morning I spent some time thinking and writing about finding my “right livelihood,” discovering work that aligns with my values and beliefs, draws upon my strengths and talents, and that engages my sense of purpose and passion. This is not necessarily the definition of “right livelihood” in Buddhist tradition, but it is how I am defining it for myself as I think about my “what’s next.”
I’ve written before about the notion of life purpose–of discovering what one is placed on the planet to do: your calling, your reason for being here. When I think about what I will do next to earn a living I am not necessarily anticipating discovering my life purpose or discerning my “calling,” though that would be nice. I think for now I could content myself with finding work that I enjoy doing with people I enjoy working and interacting with on a regular basis, in a location/situation where I am comfortable. I’ve spent a lot of time outlining in more detail what that might actually look like on the ground and am getting a bit clearer on that. The tricky part has been determining any of the details of the type of organization or institution, the industry or area of endeavor, the location in the country or any other distinguishing characteristic. In short, I know how what I want to do feels, I just don’t know at the moment what it is I see myself doing.
The educator John Dewey wrote, “To find out what one is fitted to do and to secure the opportunity to do it is the key to happiness.” Based on this idea, one must first discover what one is “fitted to do,” that is, figure out what your skills and strengths are and how those align with what you want to do and what the world needs at the moment. I love the quote by Frederick Buechner that says, “The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” This too then seems to be an important element in determining what you are “made to do,” understanding the world’s deep hunger–what is it that is needed and how can I bring my gifts to bear on meeting the need? So I know that for myself I need to do some assessment of what I want to do, what I am good at and what my world, the world around me needs. This is easier said than done, but it is definitely a worthy undertaking.
The second part of Dewey’s equation is “securing the opportunity to do it,” finding the postion, the job announcement, the internship, the volunteer work, the means by which you can put your talents to work. In other words, “Now that I know why I am here and what the world needs, all I need to do is find the position that brings that all together. I would suggest that perhaps the harder work is the business of figuring out the what: what I want to do, what I am good at, etc. and that once that is determined, it is much easier to engage in the how of finding the place to put those talents to work. One can hope anyway.
Tonight I am grateful for the wisdom and patience it is taking me to determine what my calling is, what my gifts are, what my “right livelihood” might look like. My task is not to get bogged down in the hows, but to continue to focus on the whats and let the hows take care of themselves. Another element in this process then is commitment. W. H. Murray spoke directly to this:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.“
It seems to me then, if I can manage to put all these (and probably many others) in play I will be moving in the direction of doing work I love that also meets the worlds deep hunger. I am grateful to be in this period of discernment, even though at times seems excruciatingly slow. Over time the what and where will become clear to me. Until then, I’ll simply have to keep the faith.