4 Criteria for Joy in Your Job

4 Criteria for Joy in Your Job: Work, Coworkers, Environment, Meet Needs

While no job is perfect, you can assess how well a job suits you in four key areas.

If you had the option to choose a job that truly suited you, how might you assess the opportunity before you?

The accompanying diagram points to four main criteria that can assess the potential ‘joy in your job.’ Here is a brief explanation of each criterion.

Work: How well the tasks and responsibilities of the job make constructive use of your talents in any given day. Will you have a chance to do what you do best, to learn and grow; perhaps to teach others?

Coworkers: The degree of community and belonging you feel among your peers and colleagues. Is this a group of folks with whom you want to spend most of your waking hours?

Environment: How comfortable you can expect to feel at work both psychically and physically. How likely is it that you will look forward to going in to work every day? Will you feel supported or thwarted there?

Needs: How well the job provides for your life’s requirements, both financial and less tangible. (Examples of intangibles: your sense of contribution to the greater good; or your preference for novelty, or prestige, or independence; or other factors that can make a difference to satisfaction in your day to day work life). Does this job provide you with the best opportunity, of those available to you, to help you meet your needs, feel satisfied and fulfilled?

No job is perfect, of course; each is a mix of trade-offs. Intentionally assessing the fit between a given job and what it offers you, gives you a wonderful opportunity to find a great way to spend the vast majority of your waking hours.


The Education Advantage

US Dept of Labor Chart

Unemployment in U.S. by education attainment, 1992-2014. [ Click to enlarge. ]

Through good times and bad, a college education provides a huge advantage –– by at least about 2 to 1 –– in the labor market. Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2014.


The Puzzled Mind Learns

If you are willing to be puzzled, you can learn. If you’re not willing to be puzzled, and just copy down what you are told or behave the way you’re taught, you just become a replica of someone else’s mind.”

~ Noam Chomsky
2010 (in an interview)


Creation’s Taxonomy

Saint Thomas Aquinas set the thing rolling very clearly with the question: ‘How many sorts of created things are there?’

“The answer is four. There are those which just are as stones; those which are and live as plants; those which are and live and move as animals; and those which are and live and move and think as man.

“The changing order of complexity between the stone and virus is just one monstrous step. The other steps are not just changes in complexity, but are changes in the order of complexity.

“The gross initial step is the ability to use information at all. On the whole, the physical universe is without information.”

~ Gregory Bateson


Different is not sick

…if you are not like everybody else, then you are abnormal, if you are abnormal , then you are sick. These three categories, not being like everybody else, not being normal and being sick are in fact very different but have been reduced to the same thing.”

— Michel Foucault, (2004)
‘Je suis un artificier’.
In Roger-Pol Droit (ed.), Michel Foucault, entretiens.
Paris: Odile Jacob, p. 95.
(Interview conducted in 1975.
This passage trans. Clare O’Farrell.)

Maslow on ‘Friending’

In 1962, leading psychologist Abraham Maslow met with some college students at the New School and answered questions that arose. One of the issues concerned friendship.

Friendship and intimacy are practically absent in our society. It is often said that Americans are very friendly; but people don’t ordinarily dare to look seriously at their relationships, because if they did, there would be the profoundly hurtful feeling of being utterly alone in the world as you realize that you don’t have a real friend.

But it is possible to have very beautiful and fulfilling relationships. They happen in a fraction of one percent of the population. It may be that we’ll work out techniques in the next decade or two for fostering relationships.

Maslow, a self-described utopian, and the fellow who identified “peak experiences” and self-actualization, thought relationships might generally become deeper, more fulfilling on the whole after the 1960s.

To quote a modern day pop psychologist, How’s that workin’ out fer ya?

Living in Three Types of Time

In Slavery and Freedom (1944), [Nicholas] Berdyaev described three forms of time or modes of existence in which all people live—cosmic, historical, and existential.

Cosmic time, nature’s cyclic rhythmic time, exists in the past, present, and future as objectivized time, which is subject to mathematical calculations and division into parts. Symbolized by the circle, cosmic time is the motion of the earth around the sun, the calendar, the clock, and the cycles of birth and death, which exists in an objectivized sense because movement and change take place. In cosmic time, the present falls between the past and the future. It annihilates the past to be annihilated by the future and is not interested in the fate of personality.

Historical time, symbolized by the straight line, operates in cosmic time at a deeper stratum of existence. It reaches both forward to determine the disclosure of meaning and backward through memory and tradition to reveal the inner sense of the periodicity and passage of time. In historical time, the past and future exist in the same moment. History establishes a link between periods through memory, giving birth to illusion as it searches for the fullness of achievement and the perfection of meaning. Likewise, historical time cannot find completeness in the present. Illusions of the past and future exist simultaneously and it too is enslaving to the personality.

In contrast to cosmic and historical time, which is objectivized and subordinate to number, existential time is the individual’s inward, subjective, qualitative experience—moving one from the realm of objectification into the realm of spirit where there is no distinction between the past and the future. Instead, time is dependent on one’s inward change in the intensity of the moment. This self actualizing moment, as an event in existential time, is a symbolic exteriorization and objectification of what is not expressible in an object. For example, creativity, ecstasy, and suffering occur vertically, not horizontally.

Source: Gordon, Susan. (2012). Existential time and the meaning of human development. The Humanistic Psychologist, 40(1), 79–86. doi:10.1080/08873267.2012.643691 p. 81

“Stages of Adult Development” are a Myth

Adult humans differ from one another in their individual inheritance, their personal biology, their specific life experiences, their unique perceptions, and their highly idiosyncratic interpretations of the world. Why, therefore, would anyone expect these diversely individualized beings, sovereign, willful, and living among tremendously varied circumstances, to somehow change (develop or progress) in lockstep, as a unified monolith, rather than as highly independent creatures each progressing, or not, at their own pace, in their own personalized way.

Not surprisingly, longitudinal studies (such as those chronicled by Dr. George Vaillant and others) show much more diversity than consistency among older adults — even among those of similar educational and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Any attempt to conveniently catalog changes in adulthood by defining and naming a stage or phase of adult development is fraught with so many caveats, exceptions, and exemptions as to render the schema largely impractical to irrelevant. This accounts, in part, for the lack of consistency in the findings for any researcher who has seriously looked at this question of adult developmental stages.

It is hard to ascertain and verify that which is not there.


Why Humans Live Past the Age of Reproduction

As the body of human knowledge grew over the ages, and as the social and cultural life of our species became more complex, the value of older adults increased as well.

This is why natural selection has favored a relatively long human life span despite the fact that the female reproductive potential typically ends in the late forties.

Clearly, when it comes to human beings, the capacities to teach, to transmit wisdom and skills, and to serve as a repository for the culture are just as important as the capacity to reproduce. The complexity of today’s global society and the variety of skills required to master those complexities only amplify the importance of the older adults among us.

~ Gene D. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D.

A public apology, and lesson in private personal growth

Image of Cal ThomasLiving a principled life based on morals and conscience doesn’t mean you will live like a perfect saint without flaw. None of us can do that.

Conservative columnist Cal Thomas made a transgression against his own moral principles that he traded for a moment of public aggrandizement. How he came to terms with his mistake, reconciled himself to himself, and then made amends to a person he harmed in the process, serves as a wonderful example to us all

Read his humble and instructive account here.

Between Religion and Science, Possibility

Neuroscientist Dr. David Eagleman suggests that there is room in one’s life between basing one’s beliefs on either faith without evidence, or empirically-based proof. The alternative, Eagleman suggests, is to make space for possibility.

He explains how possibility can sit between certainty and doubt in this 20-minute presentation that melds contemporary scientific exploration with world history and cultural tradition.

Glass Half-full or Half-empty?

Is this how an optimist sees a half-glass of water?

Should you be "optimistic" about a half-full glass?

To an optimist the glass is half full. To a pessimist the glass is half empty. To an efficiency expert, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be!

We might chuckle at the slavishly rigid, narrow perspective through which that engineer is seeing his world. But in a sense, he is no different from either the optimist or the pessimist. Each mindset creates a lens or filter that inevitably distorts one’s view of the world.

In considering how we typically see the world, the issue is not to categorize ourselves as either optimists or pessimists. Rather, the challenge is to remove or transcend our filters to see things with fewer prejudicial filters; more as they are.

Seen in this light, the half glass of water is neither half-full nor half-empty. It is, simply, a half-glass of water. That is neither negative nor positive. It is not good or bad.

Should you be "pessimistic" about a half-full glass?

Should you be "pessimistic" about a half-full glass?

Practice eliminating prejudicial distortions from your perceptions. Develop the habit of observing what you perceive, as it is.

When you perceive without judgment, you will increase your awareness which will enable you to perceive more — and more accurately.

Seeing more clearly, with fewer encumbrances of your own judgments, frees you to behold the world anew.

Being in the world this way, better enables you to act with more choices, as it affords you more opportunities to experience the world afresh.

Watching a Generation of Lifetimes: The ‘Up’ Series

If you pay attention to human development, psychology, or how people’s attitudes progress over a lifetime, I urge you to check out Up –– a longitudinal documentary series from Britain, available on Netflix.

The Up-Series by director Michael Apted

Director Michael Apted interviews a group of Britons every 7 years for their entire lives.

The series follows 14 children from “startling different backgrounds” from across England. It chronicles their lives for 42 years in seven-year intervals.

This longitudinal view begins in 1963 when the children are 7 years old and follows them, in the most recent installment, to age 49. You see little children playing on the playground and then witness them enduring all life’s trials through becoming grandparents. The film makers follow the group where their lives take them including Bulgaria, Australia, Spain, and Wisconsin.

Hopes, dreams, education, marriage, children, opportunities, careers, political views, religious beliefs, social values, marital stress, illness, loss (even interviewer and producer / director Michael Apted’s bias) – all show up. First in grainy black and white, then in living color, and finally, wide-screen high def.

You can stream all episodes on any Netflix-connected device:

  • 7 Up
  • 7 Plus Seven
  • 21 Up and its successors of 7-year check-ins right thru
  • 49 Up

I strongly suggest you start from the beginning with 7 Up. It really frames the project, provides the context, and sets the foundation for the rest of the wonder that unfolds.

Warning: Once you start watching, you’re going to be hooked. Set aside a weekend for the most unusual, engrossing glimpse at the lives of an entire age cohort cutting across several classes of a society.

These extraordinary documentaries capture contentment, despair, surprise, regrets, changes of heart – all the drama of full lifetimes from childhood through middle-age. (Plus providing a window unto the institutionalized stratification of British society.)

One hopes that the series continues as it would be fascinating to see how these life patterns change or don’t as this diverse cohort moves into old age…

Where are the Families of Fabled Heroes?

Unlike Hindi films, modern North American films rarely embed the hero in the thick traditions and obligations of family history. It is a rare movie indeed when we meet the hero’s parents.

So wrote cultural anthropologist Richard A. Shweder, of the University of Chicago, and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, University of Virginia, in a chapter for the Handbook of Emotions (2000).

We don’t meet the parents of Hollywood heroes because many of our culture’s iconic superheroes are orphaned. Or might as well be.

Batman’s parents are dead; victims of a violent crime. Superman’s folks died in a disaster on a far away planet. Luke Skywalker was the son of a mostly absent, and decidedly bad, father. He barely had a mother. (The character that appeared later in the Star Wars franchise, played by Natalie Portman, was an afterthought.)

At a time when the very definition and role of family in our culture is muddled (perhaps because it is in transition), we might not be surprised that our cultural heroes seem to spring forward without parental guidance and support. Or in spite of it.

Yet, the Batman and Superman narratives go back many decades to their comic book origins in the mid-last century. Perhaps they helped set us upon the path we find ourselves today.

Still, no matter how the entertainment industry construes the hero’s journey, social relationships early in life have a profound impact on shaping how each of us perceives, interprets, and relates to the world.

Given a choice between nurturing parents or becoming orphaned, even most Superheroes probably would take the hugs.

Free College Education for iTunes Users, iPhone and iPad Owners

Itunesu icon If you own an iOS 5 device or have access to a computer with iTunes on it, you now have a portal to more than a half-million lectures, videos, books, and other resources from the world’s leading universities and cultural institutions, for free.

You can get smarter on thousands of subjects, from Algebra to Zoology. And you can do it on the go if you have an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. A free iTunes U app gives you these educational materials no matter where you are. Listen to an anthropology lecture from Oxford University during your lunch hour, or watch a lecture about autism from Yale while waiting in line at the bank.

The iTunes U app gathers material from university and cultural institutions in 26 countries including Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford, UC Berkeley, MoMA, the New York Public Library, and the Library of Congress. iTunes helps you navigate the many streams of content by searching; you can sort by topic or institution or grade level.

If you own multiple iOS devices, say, an iPhone and an iPad, the iTunes U content will synchronize between them.

Early reviews are quite favorable, running about 10 to 1 positive to negative. Some users report that the applications on the handheld iOS devices crash. I’ve had downloads stall. Expect Apple to work out such bugs. Apple is encouraging more institutions to develop and offer more courses through iTunes U. So the number of available lectures and courses likely will grow.

iTunes U promises to be an amazing, mind-expanding development for learners. Discover and download some new knowledge to your desktop or laptop using iTunes, or your iPhone or iPad.