Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of September 21, 2009

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Professional Duties

(Aspect 3 of 12 of the Path of Right Living)

No one is an island. We each fill our individual niche in this vast and remarkably elaborated civilization. By doing so, we live in a style far beyond what we could produce on our own. Filling our niche by using our talents to serve society is our duty, our professional duty, a duty that applies to all except children, the retired, and the severely disabled.

The staggering range of ways of fulfilling our professional duty leaves us with endless choices in what we do, what we produce, and how we serve. One great advantage of our complex civilization is the array of opportunities it offers us to find a profession that well suits us, one that accords with our temperament, abilities, and interests.

Whatever career choices we make, or feel constrained to make, the Path of Right Living addresses the quality we bring to performing our duties. It all begins with our attitude. Whether we love our work or not, whether we are paid well or not at all, whether our work is respected by society or not, we still have the option of engaging fully in our profession, of giving it our very best, of continuously improving what we do and our ability to do it. Our work matters. We all need each other’s work and what it adds to the world’s economy and well-being. If we approach our work with the understanding that it does matter, we not only produce a better result for society and for our family, but we also preempt all the debilitating boredom, regret, and resentment that comes from being inwardly unengaged in what we do.

Intelligence, supported by the knowledge we continually and intentionally acquire and the skills we persistently hone, is a key quality factor in discharging our professional duties. We approach our work with an alert and attentive mind, asking ourselves how we can work smarter. The more we bring our intelligence to bear, the more effective and efficient we become.

As computer pioneer Alan Kay said: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Intelligence enables us to anticipate the future, to see and make opportunities, to envision possibilities, and to understand the likely consequences of our choices. This operates both near term, as in planning our day, and long-term, as with goals and major decisions. With intelligence, we imagine the future and work to achieve it or prepare for it.

But because, in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future,” we also need dexterity to adapt and make the best of the incessant change that characterizes all of life, including our professional life. Dexterity does not remain stuck in outmoded patterns. What worked last year in our professional life, may be less than optimal now, and will surely be archaic in the years to come. We need to embrace time, the gate of emergence, and respond creatively. Dexterity enables us to thrive amid the roiling seas of uncertainty.

And then there’s the opportunity of quality, of truly giving our best to what we do. We earn our living by doing our job. A half-hearted approach leaves us disgruntled and flat. But by working with quality, at the end of the day, the glow of excellence crowns the results of our labor, and we go home with a sense of satisfaction, satisfying what society needs from us and satisfying our own need to be useful and productive, to serve well.

Outward service, performed with quality, prepares us for inner service by training us to accept and to give. Wholly engaging in our job or profession not only serves ourselves, our family, and society, but is also an integral part of our spiritual path. We need not make the false distinction between our working life and our spiritual pursuit. Work and spirit complement and complete each other. These two sides of life can go hand in hand, merging into the one life of service.

For this week, reexamine your attitude toward your work and reinvigorate your performance of your professional duties.


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