A Fulfilling Career in Light of Yogic Principles
The idea of a career might seem contradictory to what you believe yoga philosophy teaches us. However, career or productivity is an essential part of our human experience. Several ancient Indian texts talk about these four stages. The Ashrama Upanishad defines them as
- Brahmacharya (student),
- Grihastha (householder),
- Vanaprastha (retired) and
- Sannyasa (renunciate).
There are different definitions as to which stage one should be at what age. The most common definition is that the first 25 years of our life should be spent developing and studying. Then, from the age of 25 until the age of 5o we should fulfill the duties of a householder; raising a family, making a living, and so on. After the age of 50, we should start to hand over household responsibilities to the next generation, take an advisory role, and gradually withdraw from the material world. The Vanaprastha stage is considered to be a transition phase from a householder's life with its greater emphasis on wealth, security, pleasure, and desires to one with greater emphasis on Moksha (spiritual liberation).
The Sannyasa stage is defined by the renunciation of material desires. When we enter the stage of a Sannyasa we develop disinterest and detachment from material life. This generally also means leaving behind any meaningful property or home. In this stage, we are supposed to become an ascetic and focus solely on attaining moksha, peace, and simple spiritual life.
The stage of Grihastha, householder, is the stage that most of us are in at the moment. It is a stage where we contribute to society with our work and our career. And, unlike the recommendation given in the ancient texts, most of us work until at least the age of 65 before retiring.
Whatever your career, your productivity looks like. You spend a lot of time every day, every week, every year on it. Therefore, according to my teachings of the 6 Pillars of a Happy Life, in order to experience a fulfilling and happy life, we must choose our career and the way we do our work wisely.
What is a career?
When being asked to define what a career is, most people think that a career is
- a job
- a business
- something you do to pay the bills
- something that helps you make money to enjoy pleasures
- spending time doing what you like and being paid for it
But having a career is not something that is necessarily connected to earning money. A homemaker also has a career.
So if a career is not primarily about making money or having a job, what is the right definition of a 'career'? In light of yoga philosophy and my personal experience, I believe 'career' can be best defined as:
- Personal productivity
- Bringing value to society
- Taking responsibility
Why should everyone have a career?
In light of the above definition and the stages of our lives that we all go through, willingly or unwillingly, I believe that everyone should make an educated and conscious choice about their career. Their career is the time they spend on being productive, bringing value to society, and taking responsibility for their duties (dharma).
Our career is a very important building block for a happy and content life, as
- we spend most of our time on it,
- it provides the means for our lifestyle, and
- it gives meaning to our life.
Career in light of yogic principles
1. Dharma – Your duty, role, and purpose
Dharma means duty. Some duties, or roles, we get when we are born. Some roles we choose. A career is a role we choose. According to yoga philosophy, it is of high importance to do fulfill our duties. Our duties bring us responsibilities and purpose.
2. Karma Yoga – Doing your duty at your best
Doing the duties at our best, without ego & attachment is Karma Yoga. Unlike the common misconception, Karma Yoga is not rendering a free service or agreeing to a cheap exchange.
3. Free Will – Your ability to choose
The capacity to choose gives us the responsibility to make the right choice.
How to feel happiness from your career
1. Check your attitude toward your career
Do you work for your hourly wage or do you work for the company and the greater good it brings to society?
There is a famous parable that illustrates this point: A traveler came upon three men working. He asked the first man what he was doing and the man said he was laying bricks. He asked the second man the same question and he said he was putting up a wall. When he got to the third man and asked him what he was doing he said he was building a cathedral where people could come to be close to god.
Essentially they were all doing the same thing. But the attitude and sense of purpose were very different between these three men: The first man had a job. The second man had a career. The third man had a calling.
2. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does your career work in sync with your other duties?
- Does your career support your lifestyle?
- What are your minimum expectations for job/career satisfaction?
It is important that the career you choose fits with the other 5 pillars, with your other duties and goals in life. And, in order to experience happiness in your career, you must know what exactly is enough for you to feel satisfied with your career. Until you have defined your expectations, you won't know if they are fulfilled.
3. And remember:
- Continue to plan and work towards developing your career, don’t wait for things to fall in place.
- A career should challenge you to expand, grow, and evolve.