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Brain Pickings on Work, Purpose and Meaningful Life


March 17, 2015 by Zara

Let’s just say the subject of what it means to live a meaningful life, and how to actually live one, has been an occupation for me. (And I know I do not stand alone!)

And because work seems to constitute such a huge part of life, especially modern life, what makes for meaningful work naturally demands closer inspection. One could go into the whole question of what the definition of ‘work’ is, and whether or not life should be constructed to entail so much of it. But I shall not go there for now.

I just wanted to note here a series of highly commendable articles on Brain Pickings that address the issue of fulfilling work, purpose and a meaningful life.

While “meaning” is, of course, an entirely subjective thing, so no one can or should tell you what that should be, the realization that it is entirely our own to make or find is priceless! There are some real gems for reflection in these articles will help anyone fine tune or set out to find a life of greater meaning.

So enjoy! And may you avoid living dead.

How To Find Fulfilling Work

How To Find Your Purpose and Do What You Love

How To Find Your Purpose and Live a Meaningful Life

How To Avoid Work: A 1949 Guide to Doing What You Love


And here, some of my favourite excerpts from them:

“What man actually needs is not some tension-less state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.” – Viktor Frankl

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.” – Roman Krznaric

“The best way to get approval is not to need it. This is equally true in art and business. And love. And sex. And just about everything else worth having.”

And indeed, that IS the question: whether to float with the tide, or to swim for a goal. It is a choice we must all make consciously or unconsciously at one time in our lives. So few people understand this!

But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life.

So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES. But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors—but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires—including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL.

“There is an ugliness in being paid for work one does not like,” – Anais Nin

“Most [people] have the ridiculous notion that anything they do which produces an income is work — and that anything they do outside ‘working’ hours is play. There is no logic to that. […] Your life is too short and too valuable to fritter away in work.” – William J. Reilly

When we consider that each of us has only one life to live, isn’t it rather tragic to find men and women, with brains capable of comprehending the stars and the planets, talking about the weather; men and women, with hands capable of creating works of art, using those hands only for routine tasks; men and women, capable of independent thought, using their minds as a bowling-alley for popular ideas; men and women, capable of greatness, wallowing in mediocrity; men and women, capable of self-expression, slowly dying a mental death while they babble the confused monotone of the mob? For you, life can be a succession of glorious adventures. Or it can be a monotonous bore. Take your choice!



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