Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How Your Occupational Experiences Can Affect Your Philosophy of Life

In his well-written article entitled “How Your Philosophy Shapes Your Life,” James Delrojo says, “Everyone has a philosophy of life whether they realize it or not. This philosophy was largely instilled into your mind when you were a child and is unlikely to be something that you stopped to weigh up as it was going in… The bulk of your philosophy of life is formed in the first seven years of your childhood. Then you have another influential period between the mid teens into the early twenties. From that point on most people make little change until they are 40 or 50 plus when some people will start to reassess their philosophy.”

Philosophy of Life and Beer

About a year ago, my cousin sent an e-mail to me with a humorous story included in it. And before continuing on my thesis regarding how our occupational experiences can affect our philosophy of life, I want to share that story with you – it’s poignant and cute:

A meteorology professor stood before his Meteorology 101 class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a very large and empty glass mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a jar of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open spaces between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar and of course the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous yes.

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and then proceeded to pour the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the grains of sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children, your friends, your favorite passions – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

"The pebbles are the other things that matter, like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else – the small stuff.

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. Play another 18.

"There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers."

Think About Your Philosophy of Life

I believe that it is important for people to think about their philosophy of life (or at least what philosophical principles they believe in and how such principles affect their lives). And in my view, Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha), 563-483 B.C., addressed this position very well: "Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find anything that agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."

How Our Occupational Experiences May Affect Our Philosophy of Life

It repeatedly has been my experience that a person’s philosophy of life (including his or her attitudes and beliefs) can meaningfully affected and influenced by their occupational experiences. For example, in my own life, which has included 33 years as a licensed psychologist, I tend to trust people until I have a reason not to trust them – as opposed to a colleague who as a criminologist tends to not trust people until he has reason to trust them. I also have a close friend who for the past 40 years has been in marketing and sales; when ever I call him on the phone, I typically sense an attitude coming from him – “Okay, let’s cut to the chase… why are you calling me? What do you want?”

In my contemporary romance novel, Fear of Feeling Loved, Marcia, a child psychologist, is falling in love with Jack, a former police officer and current criminologist. One time when they are talking, they discuss what they tongue-in-cheek refer to as their “occupational diseases.” Marcia accuses Jack of always not trusting people until they prove themselves to be trustworthy, and Jack accuses Marcia of not listening to what people are saying – instead, always interpreting what they are saying.

Question: In what ways have your occupational experiences influenced your philosophy of life?



Anonymous said...

Dr. Bill,

I would love to hear the responce to this same question during the debates!

Mostly Happy Thoughts said...

I love the story about the jar. That is brilliant. I want my boyfriend to read that as I think he fills his jar with sand first ;)

I am not sure what my life or work philosophies are... something to think about.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello Windyhair,
Great suggestion... especially if they were to get into discussing issues such as trust, honesty, and integrity. Interesting!
Thanks for visiting and offering an intriguing thought,

Wow, an interesting use of the metaphor (sand first). May be a message in his response for you(?).
Interesting to say the least.
Glad you stopped by,