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Embracing Meaningful Work

Jobs, Careers, and Vocation

Some say, “if you love what you do, then you never work a day in your life.” But let’s be honest, how many of us actually experience this cliché?

Perhaps a better saying would be, “The reward for good work is more work.” At Avenir, we have found a way to love what we do: coaching, leading, conversing, and teaching organizations and individuals how to lead better and healthier lives.

But our journey has been one of hard work, diligence, and constant growth. In this blog, we will explore three stages of work and how a perspective shift can help us cultivate a more meaningful outlook on work.

Jobs: Stepping Stones Towards Something Bigger

Throughout history, many people had limited options for earning a living. Factors such as birth, gender, social status, and geographic location played a significant role in determining their jobs. A job may serve as a stepping stone toward building or finding a fulfilling career. It is an opportunity to gain experience, develop skills, and pave the way for future growth.

Careers: Climbing the Ladder of Knowledge and Opportunity

A career is often associated with a specific profession and its body of knowledge. It requires a combination of studying and real-world experience. For example, studying law leads to becoming a lawyer, while the pursuit of medicine demands grueling hours and social sacrifices to become a doctor. Careers offer a sense of progression, with each rung on the ladder bringing new possibilities. However, some careers may eventually lose their appeal, leaving individuals yearning for new challenges and opportunities.

Vocation: Unleashing the Full Potential of Your Life

Vocation, historically associated with lifelong service in religious or priestly roles, has now taken on broader implications. It encompasses all aspects of life—eating, drinking, sleeping, and working. Vocation focuses less on financial gain and more on creating flourishing in the world and those around us. It asks the question: “What would you do if you got paid nothing?” Regardless of our occupation, whether it involves cleaning latrines, packing shelves, or removing cancerous tumours, vocation is about finding purpose and meeting the world’s deepest needs. It is where personal longings and societal needs intersect.

Embracing Meaningful Work: Shifting Perspectives

Work, in any form, has the power to be transformative. It can create a sense of community, nurture young minds, or connect people with enriching experiences. By shifting our perspective, we can view our jobs, tasks, and careers as more than just means to an end or a mere paycheck. Instead, they become invitations to embrace the entirety of our lives as deeply meaningful. As the late spiritual writer Frederick Buechner observed that vocation is “the place your deepest happiness meets the world’s deep needs”.

By embracing a more meaningful understanding of work we are able to better serve our teams, leaders, and ultimately the world.