How to Love Your Work – Free Ebook

In a perfect world, when it came to choosing
an occupation, we would have only two priorities

in mind:
firstly to find a job that we enjoyed

and secondly to find a job that paid us enough to cover
reasonable material needs

But in order to think so freely, we would
have to be emotionally balanced in a way that

few of us are. In reality, when it comes to
choosing an occupation, we tend to be haunted

by three additional priorities. We need:

  • to find a job that will pay not just enough

to cover reasonable material expenses but
a lot more besides, enough to impress other

people – even other people we don’t like
very much.

  • we crave to find a job that will allow us
    not to be at the mercy of other people, whom

we may deep down fear and distrust.

  • and we hope for a job that will make us

well known, esteemed, honoured and perhaps
famous, so that we will never again have to

feel small or neglected.

Needless to say, these three additional requirements
make working life hugely more complicated

and unhappy than it would otherwise have needed
to be. No wonder we may get stuck choosing

what to do. Rather than being able to focus
on the jobs that we are passionate about and

that we would intrinsically enjoy, we have
to twist our natures to appease extrinsic

imperatives. There is no way that we could,
for example, work as a kindergarten teacher,

a psychotherapist, a carpenter or a cook.
Our psychological drive to impress, to have

power over others and to be known to strangers
preclude such relatively modest choices from

the outset.

The state of our psyches means that we have
to aim for far more stellar careers, even

in fields we really don’t much like and
may have to work much harder than is good

for our health or our families. We are prone
to be constantly panicked – because the bar

for ‘failing’ is so much higher. A slight
wind of disapproval from the public might

be experienced as appalling, a bit less money
than the astronomical sum we made last year

will register as fateful. Under pressure,
we may make unwise and hasty moves, we might

cut corners, involve ourselves in risky schemes
and not give our work the time and calm it needs.

What would enable us to make the right career
choices is something that seems, on the face

of it, to have nothing to do with work at
all: love, a profound experience of love in

both childhood and adulthood.

A child who is properly loved is a creature
who doesn’t need to prove itself in any

significant way. It doesn’t have to excel
at school, dazzle acquaintances or shore up

a parent’s fragile sense of esteem (it may
do well at school any way but because it enjoys

the work, not because it has to boost a parent).
It can find its way to its own pleasures,

it doesn’t need to amaze; because it’s
special enough just by existing. It may end

up working extremely hard, but it will do
so because it is passionate, not because it

craves applause. It can concentrate on doing
a job very well, while unimpeded by any worries

as to whether it will be known in 100 years
or to people in another city. It can potter

away in obscurity, deriving gratification
from the business at hand.

An experience of adult love further enhances
a requisite sense of security. When someone

properly loves us, their patience, concern
and tenderness make us feel rooted and welcome

on the earth. It doesn’t really matter if
no one knows who we are and if there is very

little left over at the end of the month.
‘Two people who are in love will be happy

to sleep on a park bench,’ wrote D. H. Lawrence,
an idea which may not be literally true, but

which conveys well enough what room for manoeuvre
love gives us in relation to our material priorities

It follows that when people crave power, fortune
and fame, it isn’t greed that is driving

them, but an anguished feeling of being unloved

  • for which we can feel enormous compassion.

They look like winners, they are in reality
unhappy victims.

Excessive achievements are

the legacy of an emotionally damaged sense
that it isn’t enough just to be.

It may have become second nature to us to
try to fix emotional wounds through our career

choices and exploits. We may not even realise
what we are up to. We should dare to ask:

what might I have done with my life if I had
felt properly loved from the start? And we

may have to acknowledge, with tears in our
eyes, how different our path would have been,

how many genuine ambitions we sacrificed in
the name of shoring up a sense of acceptability

we should have had from infancy.

The most astonishing career achievements will
never compensate anyone for the lack of love

they have suffered: work cannot fix a deficit
of love. We should enjoy work on its own terms

and, in another part of our lives, mourn and
seek redemptive substitutes for the love we

originally we lacked.

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