April 12, 2012

Right Livelihood: What Makes Work Worthwhile?

You do your best work if you do a job that makes you happy. ~Bob Ross

{part five of eightfold path series}

Work. Careers. Jobs. Money. Making a living. These aspects of life are the concern of the fifth aspect of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path—right livelihood.

This can be a sticky, troublesome part of life for many of us. I struggled a ton with (or rather, against) my career in my early twenties. I was an ambitious 18-year-old, and landed an internship at an advertising agency as a freshman in college.

After interning, I started working part-time for pay as a Media Planner and later an Account Coordinator. After I graduated in 2002, I got a job offer from the agency for $32,500 per year, which I happily accepted. This meant I no longer had menial responsibilities like proofreading PowerPoint presentations, brewing coffee for meetings, or covering for the receptionist. I was free to produce piles and piles of words. I was a member of the Creative Department now. They gave me a box of business cards that proclaimed me:

Michelle Fajkus

I was a professional copywriter. I wrote for a living. I was paid to write headlines that hook, taglines that reverberate in consumers’ minds, words that sell. I was a natural. Witty, well-read, poetic, resourceful. Before, my days at work were cluttered with pesky client meetings, manipulating schedules and estimating billings. As a Writer, I was paid to think and to present my expensive ideas in sleek conference rooms where coffee and assorted cookies were served on silver platters.

One day, I found myself sitting at my desk staring at the computer screen, hating my life, hating my job, feeling guilty for doing a bad job and feeling cowardly for not quitting. But on the other hand, I’d think, “It’s a good job.” (And it was.) Everything began overwhelming me. I couldn’t think of any creative ideas. I didn’t like anything I was writing–at work or at home, nothing! I felt utterly lame and blocked. I looked out into the future and saw my whole adult life stretching before me and…freaked out. I had alternating bouts of depression and anxiety. It was my quarter-life crisis.

I read Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain. It’s all about visualizing your goals as if they’ve already happened, really connecting with the emotions you’d feel. And then releasing it. It involves affirmations and visualizations and stuff. My affirmation was: “I, Michelle, am now thriving in the San Francisco Bay Area, making a successful living by teaching hatha yoga.” I bought Think and Grow Rich!, in which Napoleon Hill makes frequent use of ALL CAPS, announcing: “Thoughts are things,” and “ALL IMPULSES OF THOUGHT HAVE A TENDENCY TO CLOTHE THEMSELVES IN THEIR PHYSICAL EQUIVALENT,” therefore, we must develop a “white heat of DESIRE for money.”

I wrote this in my journal in 2003: “Stuff is falling into place. I am manifesting my life. The Universe is listening.”

And I did move to California and taught yoga and adored it for a while, until…to reduce a very long story to seven words…I came back to Texas feeling defeated.

Now, I’m a school teacher finishing up my sixth year of teaching. I came to the field of education after my brief, uninspiring career in advertising and my failed attempt at full-time yoga teaching. I’ve loved teaching ever since I started subbing in 2004. So far in my career, I’ve already had the opportunity to teach elementary, middle and high school students. I find it rewarding and challenging to teach kids reading, writing and the other subjects as well as to help them develop traits such as cooperation, openmindedness, creativity and responsibility. I believe all students can learn and flourish in an environment of honesty, respect and equality. As a teacher, I love providing daily opportunities for my students to learn and grow with mindfulness.

The Buddha said, “Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.”

I feel so blessed to have found peace and joy in my career, as a teacher of both yoga and school. Even in the midst of transition and the stress of a big life change, I am full of gratitude for my career in education. I have been working for a private bilingual school in Guatemala City for the past three years, and I’ll be completing my contract there in June. I have decided to relocate my life to Lake Atitlán, right here in Guatemala. Will I teach elementary school? Or, will I coordinate community outreach programs and work with local nonprofit organizations? I will know soon. Will I teach yoga? Definitely!

According to TheBigView.com, right livelihood means:

one should earn one’s living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully. The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings and that one should avoid for this reason: 1. dealing in weapons, 2. dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), 3. working in meat production and butchery, and 4. selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs. Furthermore any other occupation that would violate the principles of right speech and right action should be avoided.

Inspiring Quotes on Work

Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work. ~Plato

Work while it is called today, for you know not how much you will be hindered tomorrow. One today is worth two tomorrow’s; never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today. ~Benjamin Franklin

Work joyfully and peacefully, knowing that right thoughts and right efforts will inevitably bring about right results. ~James Allen

It does not seem to be true that work necessarily needs to be unpleasant. It may always have to be hard, or at least harder than doing nothing at all. But there is ample evidence that work can be enjoyable, and that indeed, it is often the most enjoyable part of life. ~Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

A professional is one who does his best work when he feels the least like working. ~Frank Lloyd Wright

I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker. ~Helen Keller

Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy. ~Kahlil Gibran

Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else. ~J.M. Barrie

My work is a game, a very serious game. ~M.C. Escher

Never continue in a job you don’t enjoy. If you’re happy in what you’re doing, you’ll like yourself, you’ll have inner peace. And if you have that, along with physical health, you will have had more success than you could possibly have imagined. ~Johnny Carson

You’ve got to find what you love and that is as true for work as it is for lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you’ve found it. ~Steve Jobs

Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. ~Theodore Roosevelt

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. ~Stephen King

Previous Posts in this Series

Right View: Elationship.

Right Intention: Surrender & Be Kind.

Right Speech: May Your Voice Be Full of Truth, Gentleness & Purpose.

Wise Action: Anything Could Happen Next.


Editor Tanya L. Markul

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