Are You Chasing a Career or Crafting a Livelihood?

Greta Thunberg is taking adults in our culture to task. “How dare you!” echoes around the world. We know the status quo isn’t working, and our refusal to change is terrifying our children. The planet is doing its best to regulate the carbon and water cycles we have disrupted, but it is coming close to level of systems overwhelm that threatens to override conditions that make it hospitable to life.

Wait! What does this have to do with career and livelihood? Hold tight. We’ll get to the career and livelihood question!

Let’s drill down a bit. The status quo, the source of Greta’s rage, is the sum of our daily activities on planet Earth, much of which is related to the work we do to make a living. If we drill down a bit farther, we see work is ostensibly what we do to meet our needs and our wants. If we take a broad view again, we can see that today’s economic systems have evolved to distribute goods and services, ie., meet our needs and wants, with such sophistication that algorithms can predict what we want before we even realize it.

The key word here is want. How much do we want? Our sophisticated economy is here to make sure that our every possible want is met and even manufactures desire for what we want. Here’s the rub: this want, both organic and manufactured, comes with a price. The price is the potential for systems overwhelm. It is happening at the individual level just like it is happening at the planetary level.  

There are a number of reasons for this overwhelm. (A quick aside: this piece is not is not aimed at folks who are battling systemic issues such as poverty, racism, ableism!). One of the reasons is that we get so caught up in chasing a career to meet our needs and wants that our mind, body, and spirits suffer. At some point it may dawn on us that there is no career that can get us everything we want, and we take our own selves to task.

It is at this point that we switch from chasing a career to crafting a livelihood.

Crafting a livelihood is deliberately choosing work that fits within our values and limits. This doesn’t mean the end of bad days, constant fulfillment, or never getting sick. It doesn’t mean being complacent. We can still push that edges of what is possible, but we do it without over-stressing our system.

At the risk of oversimplifying an extraordinarily complex problem, it is possible that the steps we take as a collective to craft a livelihood and live within our values and limits will have a positive effect on our environment. At the very least, we may find ourselves with more time to help restore water and carbon cycles in our communities and to support political candidates who support your values.

If you fancy getting some support to craft your own livelihood, please drop me a line at kay@kaysterner.com.