Finding Fulfillment in Work

As an economist, I have often thought of money and meaningful work as two axis of an indifference or utility curve, and often pondered what informed the maximum utility point for each consumer (in economics, this is the point where demand curve intersects the utility curve). The optimum point could be anywhere on the curve or a corner solution where a consumer chooses to spend all his resources (in this case, time) on the consumption of only one good. In reality, most of us are on different points of the curve.  Fulfilling work is individually defined by our values and other factors.

However, what we all have in common is that we aspire to maximize the utility or fulfillment we get from our work.  How to attain fulfilling work, however defined, is the plot of the story that our career is. Below, I offer some thoughts on how to find fulfillment in our work.

  1. We don’t merely need the money from work to survive; we need the work itself to survive and live fully human lives. According to Theodore Roosevelt “A mere life of ease is not in the end a satisfactory life, and above all it is a life which ultimately unfits those who follow it for serious work in the world.”
  2. There is no work that is nobler than the other. Any given activity could be work, paid or unpaid. Both astrophysics and homeschooling children are important.
  3. We are most likely to discern the optimal work through the troika of the world’s needs, our skills and our deep desires.
  4. Our skills and gifts are not given to us for our fulfillment but for the good for the community, be it local or global. According to Frederick Buechner “The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
  5. It is not enough to do what makes you happy; doing what makes you happy might be far from meeting the needs of the world or using your skills and gifts for the common good or even for fulfilling your truest desires.
  6. Circumstances, like an economic slowdown, may prevent you from having a choice about the kind of work you do for a living. Meeting the needs of your family and paying school fees for your children are legitimate reasons for working. Sometimes life involves grunt work; it is best to get on with it.
  7. Finally, in all work, whether optimal or suboptimal, the most important thing is to make the most of whatever opportunity one presently has to be of service. It means we are to bring and use all our faculties and skills to bear on the task at hand.

In the long run, faithfulness is the key to fulfillment.

How might you approach your work differently if you knew that little things done faithfully change the world?

This article was first published on Linkedin

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