Over the past number of years at CAPS, we have been moving away from using terms like 'career planning' to using terms like 'career engagement.' Today's post, from Justin Pritchard highlights why this shift in the way we approach career development is important in a world characterised by on-going change and complexity.
At the career centre, we speak about your career being ‘now' and also of 'preferred futures.' What are the intersections of mindfulness (now) and hope (future)? As the President of the Mindfulness Meditation Student Group on campus and a Graduate Career Advisor at CAPS, I felt compelled to share my opinions on the relationship between mindfulness and career objectives.
Most mindfulness concepts stem from ancient philosophy but have now been empirically supported by research in many disciplines including psychology, neuroscience, education, leadership development, etc. When thinking about mindfulness and career development, there are two important concepts to note: the attitudes of 'non-attachment' and the attitude of ‘non-striving’.
Non-attachment means that we should not grasp or 'cling' to things, ideas and/or beliefs about ourselves because we are constantly evolving. This concept aligns with the Chaos Theory of Career Development which highlights that life is full of change, uncertainty, and complexity. One of the problems we can run into when we ‘cling’ to our preferred futures is a ‘tunnel vision’ mentality. In my opinion, having a narrow view on life ultimately limits our faculties of self-wisdom. Since mindfulness is the practice of awareness and noticing, it’s not a bad thing to notice a pull towards certain career options. This noticing of preferred career options can lead to career objectives. However, if we become too attached to our career objectives, we may strive too hard to plan out our future and lose our sense of creative exploration. I would argue that this creative exploration is an important ingredient to happiness.
According to some philosophies, lasting forms of happiness come from purity of mind (freedom from hindrances) and purity of view (seeing things in their bare simplicity). These states can relate to concentration, awareness, attention and clarity. The more we focus our attention on being aware in the present moment, the less we ruminate on the past or worry about the future (potential triggers to unhappiness). To me, experiencing purity of mind and understanding the simple fact that everything in life—even our career objectives—ultimately change leads to deeper self-wisdom and happiness, in comparison to being trapped in an endless ‘cycle of searching’ because of hopeful thinking.
We have been trained in our society to value conditional forms of happiness which may result in this never-ending path of searching within our own lives. We are always searching, wanting, craving and seeking for something other than what is here right now.
Once I make X amount of money,
I will be much happier.
when I attain my dream job.
These mindsets complicate and distort our perceptions about ourselves resulting in a whole whack of mental clutter. It’s as if we spend so much of our lives running around like a chicken with its heads cut off trying to frantically figure out where to take its next step. Even though life is a ‘pathless path,’ we can experience a cessation of searching by understanding that everything we need is actually right here within us in the present moment. Sharon Sherman, a colleague of mine, presented a wonderful training session this month on career exploration. She closed the session by stating, “Your career is right now.” This statement is the epitome of a ‘mindful mindset’ and highlights a proactive step away from the traditional ‘career planning’ approach.
I believe that there will always be a clash between striving for and attaching to our preferred future and acknowledging that our career is right now. Personally, I value the freedom we have at being able to creatively and mindfully explore different career options, and I worry that this exploration can be stifled by hopeful thinking. I also think that the phrase ‘preferred future’ might perpetuate this tendency we have to attach to the future. I wonder if there is a better way to describe our career objectives that are continually evolving because of change, complexity and uncertainty. Maybe we simply replace the phrase ‘preferred futures’ with ‘evolving career objectives.’ It’s inevitable that our career objectives will always evolve because we will always evolve and to me, that is one of the many beauties about life.