Finding Soul in Career Transitions

Today I spent some time reading from a favorite book of mine, Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore.  Moore-- a psychotherapist, writer, and former Catholic monk-- claims that “fulfilling work, rewarding relationships, personal power, and relief from symptoms [physical and emotional] are all gifts of the soul.” 

          Since most of my work is with people seeking fulfilling work and/or lives balanced by rewarding relationships and well-being, his words stir me with a sense of wanting to know more about being soulful.  When we say something has soul, like joyous music, we mean that it grabs our spirit and sings out to us.  When something feels soulless, like certain work environments, on the other hand, we have a feeling of deadness or lack of energy in its presence.  Soul is a feeling of life and vibrancy that we can feel within from our experiences and relationships in the world.  Soul is real and tangible, and it deeply affects our ability to feel satisfied with the lives that we create for ourselves. 

            In coaching, this sense of energy and vitality is crucial as a guideline to choosing new directions for work, relationships, or generally how to live.  As Moore says, “[Care of the soul] is not to make life problem-free, but to give ordinary life the depth and value that come with soulfulness . . . It has to do with cultivating a richly expressive and meaningful life at home and in society.”  Almost invariably, my clients seeking new career directions are, underneath that, asking for work that has meaning for them and adds to their sense of purpose in their lives overall. 

            For example, Moore suggests a radically alternative way to exploring whether your career options have enough to engage you in an ongoing way.  He suggests asking the following questions about the “soul benefits” of particular jobs: 

  • What is the spirit of this workplace?
  • Will I be treated as a person?
  • Is there a feeling of community?
  • Do people here love their work?
  • Is what we are doing and producing worthy of my commitment and long hours? 

            I’ve worked and talked with many people who’ve come to realize that in their quest for satisfying jobs and careers, they’re really looking for what will make them feel alive and empowered in the significant amount of time and energy they’d need to spend working.  An architect wants to build and manage a jazz club and restaurant.  A former engineer has become an emergency medical technician.  A former government employee is planning actual and virtual city tours to offer as part of his retirement.  The connective feature among them all is clearly the desire to live and work with soul! 

Please Join in the Conversation! 

  • What are some “gifts of the soul” that you’ve experienced in your life?
  •  What would you risk to find work with soul?
  • How can you bring soul to a current career transition?