Do You Like Your Work?

by Peter Milhado PHD on April 12, 2015

There are many mid-lifers who are at times concerned about an impoverished retirement or worse (i.e. having a fantasy of pushing a shopping cart around). The economic reality for most of us is that we have to work almost all of our lives.

Sisyphus was punished by the gods. He had to push a stone uphill, watch it roll back down and push it up again for eternity. More and more people in our highly technical society feel this way about their work and get up every morning with dread. Often we leave our true selves behind when we enter the workplace, put on a mask and become who the corporation or the boss wants us to be.

We follow instructions from “above” even when we don’t believe they will yield the desired results. Sometimes we protect our superiors even when they don’t deserve our respect. We look away from ethical violations and collude with others in a conspiracy of silence (Zweig).

We give up individuality to fit the mold at great expense to us. Then we come home and impose our resentment on our families or repress our feelings via alcohol, food and television, etc. What to do? Well I’ve seen some folks who’ve decided to take off their masks of passive compliance and enter the workplace being more authentic and genuine with their feelings, thoughts and actions with considerable success.

Its obviously a risk, but the pay off is equally high as soul re-enters their working life. Others, because of their responsibilities, feel they have to stay in an unrewarding job and find soul elsewhere – in friendship, hobbies, family and community. This gets tricky, however, when we sacrifice our deeper creative self to neurotic fears and anxieties for safety and security. Still others take a leap of faith, face their fears and look for work elsewhere. The best circumstance for this change is when it is not done purely on impulse, when no stone has been left unturned to make the present job more soulful and when other possibilities have been well researched.

James Hollis, Ph.D., differentiates between a job and a vocation. A job is strictly here to earn money to meet economic demands and retirement is usually longed for, like an oasis in the desert. A vocation is a “calling” – what we are meant to do. It is part of the process of individuation. We do not really choose a vocation; rather it seems to choose us. If we don’t respond to our “calling”, some form of damage occurs to the soul and it is in mid-life that suffering over this issue becomes acute. That is why more people make more profound changes in midlife than at any other time.

The greatest inner creative unfolding is possible in the middle and later years. There are many people, who at least for awhile, have a job to meet the escalating economic demands. They might drive a cab, deliver morning papers, work in a coffee shop and after work pursue their calling which might be playing music, painting, studying carpentry, going to school for forestry, taking a creative writing course etc.. It is in the pursuit of our ‘calling’ that our souls get replenished. The “search for meaning” can be greatly satisfied when our “calling” comes knocking on our door and we say “Yes”. Soulful parenting is one of the most creative endeavors we can undertake.

Sometimes we don’t know what our “calling” is, therefore we periodically have to ask ourselves, “What am I called to do?” Then we humbly wait and listen to our dreams, daydreams, visions, feelings, intuitions and passions to arise from within… if we can be silent long enough the instructions will come. Of course, when the call comes we have to be willing to sacrifice our ego comforts, security, and pay our dues, which all vocations require. It takes courage and is often painful, but not as painful as regretting that we have failed to answer the call and are stuck in inertia, boredom and despair.

Our calling allows us to become more fully ourselves. “The soul has its needs which are often not served well by paychecks and perks.” (Hollis) Relinquishing securities and the status quo might be frightening, but in this case, the fullness of our courage is equally important to the goodness of our hearts.

Love to Mother Meera. One for all and all for one.

Peter Milhado © 2015

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tabatha Thomas March 19, 2016 at 9:08 am

I left a “secure” job that was pleasant and paid well to pursue a PhD in psychology. My professor was corrupt and had relationships with his students. My best friend killed himself, and the guilt and disappointment made me question why I took a risk to seek a better life and didnt just stay in that pleasant job with a 5 minute commute.. But time heals. Thank God, and I became a mother, spent three blissful years at home with my child and realized I wanted to work with children rather than to study them and to make a real difference in their lives. So I got a credential in Montessori education and started working with the children. It is fulfilling and tiring, but the job is rewarding as it is just possible to watch the children change and bloom and get excited about learning and pursue their interests… I love the work, and in my 20s as a puella dazzled with possibilities the work I’m doing now was the farthest thing from my mind.

Peter Milhado PHD March 19, 2016 at 12:40 pm


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