BY JESSICA DANG
Your answer to this question is crucial.
It can determine whether or not your life’s work is contributing to you living to your full potential. In his book Springboard, Wharton School Professor G. Richard Shell argues that this question is essential to finding personal meaning and satisfaction. And that’s not as simple as most people think.
To illustrate, imagine three people who have been working hard for several years — Alex, Ben, and Catherine.
- Alex has a job he does for the paycheck. He clocks in for the hours he’s supposed to, and he puts in the minimum effort to get the job done. Sure, he might perform relatively well in his role, or he might go through the motions of socializing with the people he works with, but he can’t help feeling like a cog in a machine. He puts up with it though, as he’s motivated by the security that comes with having a stable job and a steady paycheck. He doesn’t view his job as much more than a chore. ‘Life’ is what happens when he gets home after work and picks up his guitar, or on weekends when he can spend time with his partner. He is always wishing that it’s Friday already, and he dreads Monday mornings.
- Ben feels dedication and loyalty towards his career, and to an extent, his employer too. He sees himself progressing in his defined role, towards more status and responsibility. His pride in his job is apparent in how he introduces himself to others at parties: he says his name and what he does. He has spent countless hours building up his skills and knowledge within his field. He envisions himself in his manager’s position on a daily basis, and then progressing to his manager’s manager’s position, and so on. He works hard because he wants to be better, and sometimes he does things he doesn’t want to do, like work long hours, so that he can reach the ‘ideal’ future he envisions for himself.
- Catherine wouldn’t call what she does ‘work.’ She feels lucky to have found her calling, and to get paid for it too. She’s keen to get out of bed every morning, excited about what the day will bring. She genuinely feels that she is making a difference. There’s hardly such a thing as a holiday, because she just works whatever hours she feels like to get the job done, motivated by the knowledge that what she’s doing is worthwhile. She is able to express herself though her work — using that creative spark she’s had since she was a child. She spends every day in alignment with her values, which include serving the community, even in her own little way. Instead of a cog in a machine, she feels like she is the machine.
Who do you identify most with?
Notice that there isn’t any mention of each person’s pay or profession. Research conducted by Yale University Professor Amy Wrzesniewski showed that most randomly selected groups divide themselves up almost exactly into thirds, no matter what they do, or how much they are paid. Indeed, some people from exactly the same workplace felt differently about the same job. It’s not always so clear-cut.
For example, Ben could be a trainee lawyer who feels like he has his whole career ahead of him. He’s only worked for two years, and has shown promise. Maybe he’ll make partner one day, if he just works hard enough. He’s proud of his profession, even though the hours exhaust him. He would say that his career is his priority right now. His best friend in the next cubicle feels differently. He finds the work tedious and pointless.
Catherine could be a doctor working in a ward that is always full of sick children. She works long hours, sometimes with only a few hours of sleep, but it’s worth it if she gets to save lives. She can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s her calling. Yes, she earns a fair amount, but it’s not the money that’s most important to her. Last night, she was bonding with her best friend Karen about how much they love their jobs. Karen is an administrator for the local government.
You might imagine that most people on lower incomes would consider themselves as just having a ‘job,’ but down the hallway from Catherine the doctor, the janitor finishes up cleaning the floor. Nobody really pays attention to him, but if they did, they would hear him humming away happily. Even though his job can be tiring at times, he loves it because the ward needs to stay clean so that the doctors can properly do their jobs, and the janitor gets to do his part in saving lives. It’s his calling too.
In fact, people can feel differently about their work at different times in their lives, and their perceptions can shift over time as their personal lives change and they seek different goals than when they first started in a job. Ben could focus on his law career for 10 years, and then realize that he has sacrificed a lot for the sake of it. He loses sight of why he wanted to be a lawyer in the first place, and over the years his career has become just a job to him. Now he’s just doing it because he doesn’t know anything else, and the money is good, but perhaps there are more important things in life than living hard and fast. He’ll be looking for his calling soon.
It’s not easy to work out whether you have a job, a career, or a calling. Things that matter to you now might not matter as much later, and vice-versa. In the long run, only you will know what is right for you. If you’re lucky enough to find your calling — work that you enjoy and that can support you financially — then you are better than two-thirds of the people in the workforce. And you’re well on your way to finding success and happiness.
Throughout history and around the world, men and women have always sought status and recognition. But in the modern era, the yardstick is almost always the same: economic success.
More bluntly, money.
The benefits of money and status are obvious: freedom, resources, comfort, time, attention, and deference. A lack of status, on the other hand — even if it is only perceived — can lead to sadness, anxiety, and even depression.
Our capitalist system thrives on the pursuit of status. Entrepreneurs take elaborate risks in the pursuit of great rewards. Consumers buy superfluous products — especially luxury brands — they believe confer prestige. The pursuit of status motivates us to develop our talents, work hard, demonstrate excellence, and achieve worthy goals.
In today’s increasingly affluent society, however, our ideas about what are “essential” constantly change.
For example, consider the percentage of Americans who believed the following items were necessities in 1970:
If these were nonessential to Americans 45 years ago, why do hundreds of millions consider them necessities today?
It’s not just that these things make our lives easier and more comfortable. Many folks would feel embarrassed or ashamed to be without them.
Our sense of happiness is based on comparing ourselves to others. Unfortunately, that is a guaranteed recipe for unhappiness.
The problem with making economic success the foundation of personal happiness is that a) you cannot control the economy and b) most companies eventually fail. Needless to say, this undermines job security and financial well-being.
While life will always be uncertain, there is a simple and effective cure for status anxiety: changing the way you think.
Every time we feel satisfied with what we have, however little that may be, we can count ourselves rich.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau insisted there are two ways to make a man wealthier: Give him more money or curb his desires. Or, as Socrates declared as he passed the expensive goods on sale in the Athens agora, “How many things I can do without!”
As for other people’s opinions, whether you get the recognition you believe you deserve is out of your control. But if you haven’t done anything that deserves contempt or disrespect, what difference does it make what someone else thinks?
An obsessive pursuit of status may not just be a waste of time. It could be a waste of a life.
About the Author: Alex Green is the author of excellent books like, The Secret of Shelter Island: Money and What Matters, and Beyond Wealth, that show you how to lead a “rich” life during trying economic times.
There are a number of contributing factors that make it challenging to be taken seriously in the professional world. It can be something irrational like your age, sex, height, or even voice that cause others to incorrectly assess your worth. Sometimes it can even be certain behaviors you exhibited that were misperceived by others and now you’ve been pigeon-holed and deemed less-professional or adept than you really are. However you’ve been misunderstood, change the attitudes of your work colleagues by committing to a certain way of carrying yourself and living by a clear value system that earns respect.
Inc. recently listed powerful moves you can commit to to influence how you’re seen in the eyes of others and ultimately be taken more seriously. We’ve highlighted our top choices here so you can begin implementing them in your interactions today.
Always be informed. It is better to be silent than to speak when you don’t know what you’re saying. Communicate effectively and knowledgeably on every subject. If you need some brushing up, put in the time to make sure you have all the facts before saying words you can’t take back. Being intelligent is not enough.
Keep your word. If you say you’re going to do something, you better get it done. Never promise something you can’t deliver on 100%. It is always better to be honest than fall short of what you’ve committed to and disappoint your colleagues.
Dress well. You’ve heard about dressing for the job you want, not the job you have. The way you show up to work is an indicator of the respect you have for yourself and the company and the kind of success you’re after.
Be mindful of your tone. In addition to the way you carry yourself, how you speak can communicate beyond the words you’re actually saying. Speak with confidence but also respect, always keeping your ear out for the tone you’re using.
Always be on time. Showing up late is a sign of disrespect and disorganization, two traits that have no place at the office. Practice punctuality and you’re communicating you can be counted on.
Follow This 4-Step Routine Every Friday
|Find a quiet place to work where you won’t be interrupted, and spend a couple of focused hours on these top-priority tasks, completing them or getting them into a good place before the weekend.
Once progress has been made against these big items, you can turn your attention to the little ones.
3. Spend 1 hour cleaning out your inbox
Scroll through your entire inbox for emails or calls that slipped through the cracks during the week.
If sending a response or giving a quick call back will only take a few minutes, do it right away.
Consider whether some of these items really need to be done at all. If they aren’t that important — and you will never actually get around to doing them anyway — just delete now and save yourself the stress of seeing them again.
Do make a note of any items that are important and require more time to complete, and will need to wait until the following week. It can alleviate pressure (and is a nice courtesy) to take a moment to quickly respond, saying you’ll get back to them with a more in-depth answer next week. This leads right into the next step.
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“It’s not about the hour you wake up, it’s about what you do with the hours that you are up. Whenever you start your day, start it with a powerful morning routine to get your mind right, then focus on your #1 priority for at least 15 minutes and win a victory that the world can’t take away from you no matter how crazy the rest of the day gets. You got this.” -Craig Ballantyne
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4. Write out your to-do list for the following week
With a clear understanding of where things are being left off with all big and little items, you can now prioritize what you will do the following week (and equally as important, what you will not do).
It is critical to take time on Friday to write out your to-do list for the next week. Your top priorities will be much fresher than trying to do this on Sunday night or Monday morning.
This will also give you the peace of mind to know that your top priorities have been captured on paper, and will enable you to hit the ground running the next week.
Limit your weekly to-do list to no more than 3–5 essential items.
* I know I said this was a 4-step process, but there is a bonus step that might be most important of all.
5. Leave the office early
At this point in the day, you have made progress against your major projects, cleared out as many minor-but-necessary items as possible, and set yourself up for a successful week ahead.
With a highly-productive Friday afternoon in the books, it’s time to get out of the office early.
Even leaving at 4 or 4:30 p.m. will make your weekend feel significantly longer.
You deserve it!
About the Author: Andrew Merle writes about living well, including good habits for happiness, health, productivity, and success. Subscribe to his e-mail list at andrewmerle.com and follow him on Twitter.
Get ready to express yourself with Lingoji – the revolutionary new emoji app dedicated to cultural diversity. Bringing a shared cultural context to the digital world, Lingoji has opened an entirely new way to communicate to those close to you.
Lingoji combines lingo and emojis to create culturally-specific, sticker-sized icons. These can be used to convey humor, context, tone, and even complex expressions and emotions. Lingoji’s point of distinction is the engagement of local artists. The development team is integrating artists from cultures all across the globe. Here, they create culturally authentic art, specific to each culture.
Lingoji is the first of its kind. The app provides a wide array of emoji sets, each custom-tailored to a single country and culture. Users can easily choose the set that is the best fit for themselves, their friends, and their families. Available for just $1.99, each of these emojis sets can be easily accessed from the keyboard of a mobile device. Lingoji currently supports a total of four Caribbean countries: Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. From there, Lingoji will be expanding steadily into other countries.
These culture-based emoji catalogs provide a common language between individuals from distinct cultures and regions, thereby making it easier for them to communicate with their community. Widespread usage of these emojis will eventually highlight a variety of cultures around the world that are not currently represented.
As a Caribbean native, Lingoji’s co-founder Patrice Gervais developed a love of other cultures while working in New York for Colure Media. Patrice and his co-founders David-Georges Renaud, Gerald Brun, and William Belle have all worked to create a highly unique tool. This visual story-telling palette is designed for our diverse, modern cultures.
Lingoji is currently available at both the Google Play and the App Store. For questions or feedback, the Lingoji team can be reached at