Job / Career / Calling

Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis:

Most people approach their work in one of three ways: as a job, a career, or a calling.

  • If you see your work as a job, you do it only for the money, you look at the clock frequently while dreaming about the weekend ahead, and you probably pursue hobbies, which satisfy your effectance needs more thoroughly than does your work.
  • If you see your work as a career, you have larger goals of advancement, promotion, and prestige.
  • If you see your work as a calling, however, you find your work intrinsically fulfilling you are not doing it to achieve something else. You see your work as contributing to the greater good or as playing a role in some larger enterprise the worth of which seems obvious to you. You have frequent experiences of flow during the work day, and you neither look forward to “quitting time” nor feel the desire to shout, “Thank God it’s Friday!” You would continue to work, perhaps even without pay, if you suddenly became very wealthy.

Hat tip: Derek Sivers books page.

45 thoughts on “Job / Career / Calling

  1. Very true, I also believe that you can switch from one to another of this stages in life while you are understanding better what that calling is and once you get to that point you just live more passionatly.

  2. As an educator, I’ve had this conversation with my students many times over the years. While I definitely think of my work as a calling, I’m definitely glad when the summer finally rolls around so I can recharge my batteries and work on my blog!

  3. Matt, I think this is an interesting view of what motivates people but happiness and fulfilment have so much to do with the people and environment around you and, within the work environment especially, often things you have no control over.

    In this way you might go through all three of these in a single day. I guess they’re all still motivating factors but the implication is that we’re only happy when we see our employment as a calling.

  4. I rely to this 3rd option. My bricks n’ mortar work, calling and hobby at the same time, adding to it web side of things. Often I do get involved to the extend that I end up making things for free, just because I love to do them.

  5. I was nervous about The Happiness Hypothesis thinking that it might be just another positive psychology book, but it turned out to be much more than that and was one of the most insightful books I have ever read.

    We seem to enjoy the same types of books as I recall you posted something on an Alain de Botton book too. Just the other day, I posted a list of all 71 books I have read in the past couple of years with each one rated by how enjoyable, insightful, and well-written I perceived it to be. In case you’re interested:

    1. I read that one a few months ago and enjoyed it, though I wasn’t crazy about the attempt to create new vocabulary around the issue.

    2. Drive is indeed a wonderful read, almost revolutionary to the traditional corporation setting. I have read it once, and will probably go back and read it again.

  6. First, I believe the hypothesis is correct. I am trying to make the shift from a job to a calling.
    Second, I’m guessing the content is a block quote and I really like the style. The right and bottom shadow are the perfect detailβ€”and now, for the first time, I am noticing the same detail on your content container. Cool!

  7. Haha, fun coincidence. I just began reading this book about a week ago. I’m in chapter 2. It’s fantastic so far, one of the best books I’ve read on the topic of positive psychology.

    Another good one is “Happiness: The Science behind Your Smile” by Daniel Nettle.

    I’m currently somewhere between career and calling with my current work. I enjoy it, I work with great people, but I wouldn’t think of it as perfect just yet.

  8. Well put.

    A guy in my office building and I were discussing this sort of thing the other day. We both agreed that even if we could retire right there and then, we wouldn’t actually stop doing what we do for a living as we do actually genuinely enjoy it.

  9. For this time, may I see my work just as a job. I’m not see it as a calling yet. I don’t know. Sometimes, I want to see it as a calling, may like you who see all your works as a calling I guess. πŸ˜€

  10. I’ve actually thought a lot about what I would do if I became very wealthy (enough so that I’d never have to work). I’d probably work on WordPress!

    The problem with a “calling” is that it is really hard to disconnect completely, turn off, and be with your family. You have to really force yourself to make that a hard switch. And sometimes they’ll have to deal with you bouncing ideas off of them. πŸ™‚

  11. I don’t think numbers 2 and 3 are all that incompatible.

    Of course there are significant differences; but often the dedication characteristic of 3 leads in turn to the promotion sought by number 2.

    Just a thought.

  12. This is how I almost every day at my “work” as I dream of my future “career” which I think truly is my “calling.”

    P.S. Love the site design Matt.

  13. I am currently seeking a calling with your company. Have you had a chance to look at my resume yet? πŸ™‚

  14. Matt – thanks for posting this! I suppose sometimes you don’t have a choice…but having a job that is also your “calling” is just a really fun way to work!!

  15. My work is a calling, as web development is creative, often exciting, challenging and much more. There are only few times with boring things to do (PSD 2 HTML) and I love this job so much that I can’t even stop workin’ @home. There are so many ideas and visions in my mind that it would take more than one life to get all these things done.

    People all over the world are doing a great job creating new websites with sometimes incredibly ideas in mind, so there’s something new to explore and to learn day after day.

  16. After repeated inquiries to jobs@automattic regarding the Happiness Engineer, I fear I may never get to answer my calling. πŸ˜‰

    That said, though, I like those three descriptions, and I can think of examples of all three in the attitudes of my coworkers.

    What do you call the work if elements of all three are present? I find it difficult to choose between any of the three regarding my own attitude, although it does lean noticeably toward job or career.

  17. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to pay bills. People forget that sometimes when they are very comfortable.

  18. Beautiful thoughts as usual Matt.

    I see myself as a guy who is in a transition phase. What I thought was the “Career” phase has started to emerge as the “Calling”.

    I believe WordPress for you initially was a calling too?

  19. Great subject, and fascination comments.

    Reading through the comments, I am glad (for me and the other WordPress users), to see how AUTOMATTIC has become such a desirable place to work.

    Good luck people πŸ™‚

  20. Great thoughts from a guy that created for everyone, the possibility to go for what’s behind door #3. It’s a scary but worthwhile ride!

  21. I don’t think life is that simple. I have chosen to go with the flow of the society that I am in. I am not rich, and so I must work. This does not leave me with the choice of having my work as a ‘calling’.

    If I were rich, I would do many things I do at work, for free. But I spend every week longing for the weekend to spend with my loved ones.

    I hate it when job interviews question you, alluding to put you in one of those 3 categories. I clock in, and I clock out. My employer gets the time they pay for. During that time I am passionate.

  22. Life and work is far more complicated than the hypothesis suggests. The distinction between ‘job’, ‘career’ and ‘calling’ is more likely to be that of a continuum than it being simply a set of three discrete possibilities as the hypothesis suggests. Viki’s, Rick’s and Eric’s comments all support this view – as do my own experiences. Time to accept the null hypothesis I think!

  23. Can’t it be all three at once? My job is really stressful so I often daydream of the weekend (paradoxically I do this during the summer more, because there is LESS work to occupy my time), but I also am promotion-oriented and proud of my job, and finally, sometimes I do get into flow states and I find my work really fulfilling.

  24. This is *so* true. I’m so happy to be at a point of “calling” — and always creating. Makes life so much better.

    Hope to see you when you’re in Houston again. (I can’t be at WordCamp though – photographing a wedding + White Linen Night in the Heights at my studio.) If you have a spare hour or so, maybe you could be a part of my photo project? That would be awesome!

  25. Thanks for the tip! Have you taken a look at Tony Hsieh’s book Delivering Happiness? I didn’t see it on Sivers’ page. Picked it up earlier this week and am tearing through it. Inspiring.