Someone somewhere along the way once said, "When a person is doing the thing they like to do they will invariably do it well." I think most of us would buy that. On the other hand, encouraging kids to do the thing they enjoy may sound like we're encouraging self indulgence. But maybe not? Maybe this is something our recent college graduates should be aware of. In fact it may be a little late for them.
Maybe this was something we should have been telling them a whole lot sooner? How do we decide what we want to do?
I think all of us have had an "Uncle Charlie," a close relative who undoubtedly meant well, who would strongly advised us to "Be a brain surgeon. They make lot of money," words to that affect. There intention was good but I think their aim was misplaced.
For some of you, I'm gonna blow your mind here: Money is not the answer. Money is simply a commodity, a thing with which we reward someone for performing a particular task. If they can do it better than the next guy or gal the reward is greater. If there's someone else who can do it just as well, there's competition. Then the question becomes who'll do it cheaper. Wait a minute.
Maybe we shouldn't say "cheaper" but, with a little more finesse and being more "socially correct" who'll do it less expensively. If in fact it were something everybody could do equally well, you'd probably save a couple bucks and decide to do it yourself. But we're talking about money again aren't we?
Here's an idea, a term I picked up from a behavioral psychologist named Abraham Maslow: "Self Actualization." I don't know where he came by it but that's not important. He defined it as a personal enjoyment in the thing you're doing. Self-actualization is the internal approval you feel when you're doing something particularly well. Isn't that another way of saying that what you enjoy doing you do well? We're kind of going 'round and 'round the same stump here aren't we?
That's self-actualization. Whatever name you choose to call it, it's the reason almost all, if not all the great advances in our civilization were accomplished. Do you suppose Wilhelm Rontgen, the fella who discovered X-rays, was thinking during his experimentation, "How can I make whole lot of money at this?" No, he was doing something he enjoyed. He was interested in his work and he did it well. That's why today's brain surgeons get to see a picture of the inside of your head; they can examine the X-rays before opening up your brain.
There's another factor to be considered though. How many of us get to choose, get to do the thing we feel we would enjoy doing? You might watch that fella who picks up your trash each week. Is he doing that because he enjoys pickin' up trash more than, say, brain surgery? The water's getting a bit murky here but stay with me.
Maybe the guy never had the desire to be a brain surgeon. Not everybody wants to muck about in someone else's skull. Then again he may be able to see that the task he's performing, picking up trash, as a real service to mankind and society, which it is.
That brings us to the second "do what you enjoy" consideration. If you haven't become the space explorer you dreamed of being as a kid, examine what you are doing and why. I don't mean for a paycheck but the reason there's a paycheck for what you do?
There's a service you're performing. It's obviously necessary or you wouldn't be paid to do it. For your own "self actualization" do it well. Realize it's important! Take pride in doing what you do and you can't help but do it well.
Editors note: Ben Mukkala is an award-winning northern Michigan author whose several books on life and living are available in printed and e-book form. Books are available in bookstores and gift shops or through his website, www.benmukkala.com.