A Unique Way of Understanding the Nature of Work and Purpose

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.– Confucius

Let’s be honest. By now, we all have been bombarded so much by this “do-what-you-love” notion that it just doesn’t seem to have the same appeal as it used to.

There are a plethora of resources, ranging from internet articles to full-fledged books, that deal with this subject.

And yet, this vast supply of knowledge just doesn’t seem to solve the problem for most people.

I think the main reason for this is that it’s a problem which is of an extremely subjective nature, more so than it is usually given credit for.

And the reason I say that is because “solutions” like psychometric tests or exercises are still considered to be one of the sure-shot ways of answering this massive question. The problem with these approaches is that they have a linear nature. They are systemized approaches that often ignore the deepest values residing in a person. While they make sure that an outcome will always result after the process ends, they fail to consider whether that answer strikes the deepest chords of the soul of the person in question.

I am of the opinion that there cannot be a sure-shot way of finding out what a person would love to do for the rest of their lives. Life is just too deep, complex and dynamic to ever conform to something of a fixed nature.

But it’s definitely possible to guide someone in a better way by changing the approach from being specific to figuring out the principles that can steer them towards living their passion.

Hence, I’ve developed a little approach that relies on some hypothetical situations to get closer to our deepest selves so we can answer the question in a way that ensures higher sustainability.

This little exercise won’t answer what it is that you need to do, but can make you realise how important it is to follow one’s dream.

So let’s get started.

First of all, I want you to imagine a rather dystopian situation:

Imagine that scientists discovered another planet that was more hospitable to human life and everyone was evacuated.

You overslept on the day the evacuation process took place, and now you’re the only person left behind.

Your inability to garner some amount of self-discipline on the most important day ever means that you’re on course to lead the most boring existence ever know to any human.

What would you do in such a situation if you really had no hope to ever leave?

You would do whatever you wanted.

There is no one to stop you.

But no matter how much ever you indulge in things that were previously inaccessible to you, you would soon be bored.

Even if you were a creative person, like let’s say a musician, you would not be able to play music with the same zeal as there is no one to play to.

What about work?

You wouldn’t even think about things related to work or your passion, as it’s all meaningless when there is no one around.

Money won’t have any value any more.

You would come back to the very basics and the only actions that would have any meaning for you will be directly related to your survival, like eating and sleeping.

Your only entertainment will be any sort of pleasures that you can help yourself with. (let’s not get into those)

Ultimately, your existence will boil down to just satisfying the basic needs a human being has.

Nothing more, nothing less.

What does this mean as far as the concept of work goes?

It means something we all know already. That the primary reason people work is because they want to survive in a world where there is fierce competition to stay alive.

Even people who follow their passions, do it ultimately for that need, though on the face of it, it may not look so.

But the dystopian situation described above proved that passion only has meaning when there are people around.

No people around you would mean that the motivation to work would not exist as everything is available to you.

The only work you would be doing is to just make sure you have enough to eat and survive.

So this teaches the primary of nature of work and the motivation people have to do any kind of work.

Now let’s imagine a completely opposite situation.

Let’s say you wake up and realise that the above situation was all a bad dream, and that the Earth is as beautiful and full of life as ever.

And you receive an expected, but extremely pleasant surprise.

You’re notified that you’ve been declared the winner of a lottery-based contest that was held by a large corporation, which you had taken part in half-heartedly.

But now you’ve won it. And your bank account is credited with an unimaginable monetary figure, large enough to ensure that you never have to do a job for survival.

You can now do ANYTHING that you ever wished to, without ever worrying about your finances.

Now what would you do?

That’s exactly what you would do – ANYTHING that you ever wished to.

That means indulging in all sorts of things which were inaccessible to you before. Your freedom would be similar to the dystopian situation but your motivation will be completely different.

Now you would enjoy everything more.

And though you can completely live-off a hedonist lifestyle forever, at some point, you are bound to ask yourself some questions about finding your purpose and doing something that fulfils that purpose.

So what about work?

You definitely won’t work a usual boring job, but you will start to finally follow your dreams because now there is no fear of survival.

And now your creative endeavours will have meaning, since there are people around to respond.

You will only have the energy to do work that brings joy to you.

You may fail but it won’t matter, since all your future attempts will have one thing in common – they will be pursuits based on your passions.

What does this tell us about work?

This tells us that once the basic needs of survival have been met, the only way work will ever be fulfilling is if it’s based on our passion.

It also tells us that the basic nature of work is that it needs a well defined purpose

In the dystopian world, you would do only that which ensured survival.

In the utopian world, you would do only that which ensured a purposeful life.

The motivation in both the worlds is clear and hence, work will never feel like a burden.

Then what’s the problem with our REAL world situation?

Why don’t most people love their work?

Something has clearly gone amiss.

Is the cause that there are people around us?

Definitely not.

Is the cause that we all don’t have an unlimited amount of money?

On the face of it, it looks like this is the problem.

If we all had to never worry about our finances, it would present us with the perfect situation to follow the path of our dreams.

But going by this assumption, the only people who should be living the life of their dreams are the ones who were blessed with financial independence.

But we all know that is not the truth.

There are millions out there who never had such resources, but are living their purpose.

So while having a large amount of money is definitely a huge advantage, it is by no means, a necessity.

Where then does the fault lie?

We saw in the dystopian world example that the motivation to work only existed because of survival.

Suppose work meant catching one fish a day because you knew that’s all you needed to survive.

Let’s assume it took you two hours to catch a large enough fish to get by the day.

If you knew that you could get by with one fish everyday, would you ever work 4 hours to get hold of two of them.

Probably not. Even if you did, it would only be so you can store the extra fish for the next day so you don’t have to work at all on the next day.

But you definitely would not be working extra hours because you know exactly what’s needed for survival.

And that is EXACTLY where the fault lies.


And if you over-estimate, you will always be doing work that is not necessary.

Deep-down your soul knows that this extra work is not necessary and that the time spent there can be used towards making efforts to live a life full of passion and purpose, because we’ve already seen that the motivation to follow a purpose exists as long as there are other people around.

But the over-estimation of the need for survival hinders this effort, thereby resulting in the suppression of the most basic need of the soul – to live a life full of passion.

And why do we over-estimate this survival need?

Because we never spend enough to time to analyse our lives, and realise that so many of our pursuits don’t contribute to our basic needs in any way.

For instance, if you have an extremely consumerist attitude, your desire to buy the latest gadgets and devices may mean that you have to work more in order to buy these toys.

But these toys are not your basic needs. They are your wants.

But because you THINK they will make you happy, you consider them a part of living your life, thereby overestimating your need to survive.

This overestimation results in doing more of something you are not passionate about.

But deep down, your soul knows about this overestimation and therefore starts to move away from your meaningless pursuits.

This is exactly why you feel a kind of dissonance between your actions and feelings.

And this is what results in frustration.

The BASIC YOU is not in line with this made-up one.

Making a living is important, but only up to the point where your financial condition is enough to sustain the basics of life.

The basics are more to do with needs than wants.

The idea is not to live in deprivation, but to watch closely if your lifestyle is based around only those things that you truly value.

Once the expenses go down, you can begin to divert some energy towards pursuing your passion and purpose.

That’s the only way to satisfy the soul as far as work is concerned.

A lot of people live their whole lives in over-estimating the need to survive. They always feel they need more and more money, so they keep working jobs they hate.

Once we get closer to the survival method described in the dystopian situation, we’ll realise how less we need to be happy.

This will open up doors to pursue our purpose.

A life based around our passion is more rewarding than which is spent on meaningless acquisitions.

Our soul is crying out loud for us to live the kind of life that we would live if we had all the money in the world.

What that life is can only be answered by you, since you are the only one who knows the most about yourself.

But I felt it is equally important to understand why we need to do work that we would love to do.

So if this article helped you, do leave a comment below.

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