There is a difference in meaning from having a job, having a livelihood, and pursuing a vocation. Research shows that currently there are more people in South Africa subsisting on social security grants than those who are employed. The stats in this article are an interesting read.
Then there are many millions who have found alternative means of making some sort of a living. But ultimately ‘meaning’ is found in following a calling.
‘Having a job’ is essentially a way of earning a regular income. With millions of South Africans officially unemployed and with the growing challenge to rote work presented by artificial intelligence and robotics, we face a fundamental shift from the typical employment patterns of the industrial age. That is why this current economic era is characterised as the ‘fourth industrial revolution’.
In the so-called informal sector people create their own livelihoods; they are essentially self-employed entrepreneurs. That applies whether in collecting recyclable waste for reward or offering haircuts in people’s homes. And it might even be that there is more satisfaction in having a livelihood, however menial, than simply doing a job for a basic salary. In a previous posting we examined the contribution of employee engagement and disengagement to company productivity. We suggest that when employees become able to convert their jobs to vocations the activity becomes imbued with meaning, and thus that addresses the third factor of meaningfulness that we saw contributes so significantly to a ‘sense of coherence’ as describe in part 4 of this theme
What then is a vocation? Typically it describes an activity where productive engagement with life follows some calling. Whether it is teaching, nursing, medicine, design, craftsmanship, art, etc.; the salary becomes less important. The product or service produced for fellow human beings becomes the key issue.
Why is it that so many successful entrepreneurs who might have made a fortune in their business endeavours, ultimately find deeper satisfaction in supporting altruistic initiatives?
Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) trainer, Roberts Dilts, provides a deeply integrative model that helps define the experience of living a life with a calling – or pursuing a vocation. And along with that comes a quality of resilience that exemplifies an indomitable spirit. Dilts relates the transformation to ‘whole-being’ to an evolutionary inward path of growth to self-awareness and personal responsibility.
Firstly it requires mindfulness of the living context. The question is: “Where do you spend your time, where does life find you, where does your attention predominantly go?”
Secondly it requires mindfulness of one’s own responses. The question is: “What are you doing with your time, what are your predominant activities, what will folks be seeing you doing and hearing you saying?”
Thirdly it requires mindfulness of your competencies, aptitudes, experience, and acquired skills. The question is: “What are you good at, what comes naturally, what have you learned to do well?”
Fourthly it requires mindfulness of your core values – the principles by which one chooses to live. The question is: “What is truly important to you, what criteria apply when you make your important decisions? What simply goes against the grain so that you refuse to become involved, what would you be prepared to sacrifice my life for?”
Fifthly it requires mindfulness of your enabling (or disenabling) beliefs. The question is: “What vision of possibility do you hold for the future, for yourself, for your family, for your community, for society, for the world?”
Sixthly it requires mindfulness of your own identity. The question is: “Who am you, who are you becoming, how do you want to present yourself to the world, how do you want to be known?”
Finally it requires a developing sense of purpose – of how ultimately to find meaning in life. The question is: “What is the legacy you choose to leave by your everyday interactions with your fellow human beings and life, when Your life is over, what is the gift you would have wanted to give to the world?”
When those questions have been addressed, you will have evolved through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from survival to security, to fellowship, to self-esteem, and ultimately to self-actualisation. This does not require that you become a rocket scientist or a saint – but it does require mindful living. And with that mindfulness even the most menial task can become a vocation. When leadership becomes capable of instilling that mindfulness in their organisations employees will become powerfully aligned in an increasingly successful organisation.
How can your employees function with a defined sense of purpose – appreciating the value the company brings to society?
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