I came across an interesting word in the newspaper the other day and was struck by how little we talk about it in conjunction with our careers.
The word was “interiority.” In today’s obsessive concern with the externality of our careers – with the push to make more money or to find greater security in our jobs – many of us ignore or lose touch with its interiority.
The dictionary defines interiority as “interior quality or character.” The interiority of our career, then, is the essence or fundamental nature of the endeavor to which we devote one-third or more of our lives. It is the answer to the question: what will be the legacy of our work? In the end, what will it mean … to those with whom we have shared those thirty or forty years and, more importantly, to us?
On one level, of course, we would like to think that we have been good at what we do and can take pride in what we have achieved at work. Similarly, many of us would like to feel that our work has also earned us recognition and respect from those whose opinions matter to us.
On another level, however, interiority can indicate the quest for something deeper, something more substantial even than pride and respect. It can signal that we are engaged in probing the unknown extent of ourselves – not as a metaphysical investigation of our humanity, but as a very personal quest to understand who we are as an individual.
A focus on the interiority of our careers can be our pathway to self-knowledge. It can open us up to learning what we are capable of. It can give us permission to test the limits of our capacity for excellence, to discover how must greater those limits are than what we had assumed or had been led to believe. When we value the interiority of our work, we come to understand the fullness of ourselves.
Pride and respect produce satisfaction, but only self-knowledge yields fulfillment. Satisfaction comes from a sense of accomplishment, from having done good work. Fulfillment comes from a sense of peace, from having comprehended the substance that separates us from the shadows. Both are worthy outcomes of interiority, but fulfillment alone is the preeminent state.
Thanks for reading,