YOU MIGHT wonder what Zen Buddhism has to do with planning a career or finding a job. But according to Laurence Boldt, author of Zen and the Art of Making a Living, the integration of the spiritual and the material is the key to satisfaction and success in our work. Only when we allow work to be a creative expression of our true selves, can we start to live our lives to the full. If all this sounds rather abstract for a career book, you would be right, at least in part. Large sections of the book are taken up with philosophical debate. However, Boldt uses his in-depth knowledge of sociology, philosophy, religion and economics to present a persuasive argument for becoming more purposeful in our choice of work. He then follows through with some clear and practical ideas for creating a working life that we love. Moreover, since the book is peppered with quotes, illustrations, affirmations, witty anecdotes and inspiring stories, it succeeds in being both a practical career guide and an entertaining and uplifting read. The first four chapters present a detailed review of how we have come to perceive work. For example, have you ever wondered why we assume we have the right to personal power, leisure time, security and unlimited consumables? Before the industrial revolution, workers did not expect these things. Boldt argues that our expectation to be 'little kings' has meant we are caught up in a machine that gives us little chance to express ourselves. As we strive to have more power and more things, we begin to see work as drudgery. Eventually we become bored, alienated and stressed. Zen offers an attractive alternative to this unsatisfying existence, asking us to re-consider our relationships with nature, society, our psyche and our spirit in order to create a new way of being and working. In essence, Boldt asks us to practise the 'art of creative living'; to engage in a lifetime of work, motivated not just by external rewards but by the intrinsic joys of self-expression and service. I imagine many of you are thinking: 'Well, that sounds fine in theory, but I just don't know what work I could do that would fill me with joy.' Boldt claims that, deep down, we all know what our purpose in life is. We simply need to reconnect with who we are and then act to bring our purpose into being. To help you define your purpose, Boldt presents four meaty sections packed with ideas to inspire you and practical exercises to help you. He starts with 'The Quest for Life's Work'. He says that to find out what you want to do with your life, you must first have a vision for yourself and for the world. Most of us have fairly limited concepts of what we want to achieve - a new car perhaps, a better apartment, or financial security. That is fine, but Boldt encourages you to go further, to create a vision for the world that will fire you to serve and excel. Further sections help you clarify your values, the people you want to have the most impact on in your life, the type of contribution you wish to make to the world, the talents and skills you might use to fulfil these goals, and, combining all these, your ultimate mission in life. While other books offer exercises to define career goals, none offer as many resources as Zen. There are plenty of exercises to work on in the collection of more than 120 worksheets. Unlike other books, Zen provides a degree of reassurance for those who still cannot define what they wish to do with their lives, even after all the soul-searching. Fear of rejection, of making the wrong choice or of failing are all factors that can be worked through until clarity emerges. After this extended introspection, Boldt moves back to practicalities, recognising that, even with a clear sense of purpose, you still have to navigate the job market. He shows you how to turn your vision into realistic goals; envisage, research and evaluate possible career moves; and gain relevant experience. Here Boldt moves on to slightly more traditional ground, advising the reader to talk to people who are doing similar jobs and to consider temporary or voluntary work in order to evaluate the potential of different paths. He follows through with advice on how to find opportunities aligned with your life's mission. This is where the book evolves into an excellent 'how-to' manual. Whether you plan to find paid employment, set up a business, work freelance or develop a non-profit organisation, you have a range of detailed steps you can take to achieve your goals. For example, Boldt outlines 10 steps business entrepreneurs can take to succeed; gives advice on writing proposals, working with the media and effective selling; and encourages you to surround yourself with like-minded people. He even suggests more than 200 businesses that can be started with little money. Zen includes plenty of resources to help you make even the most ambitious ideas a reality. However, Boldt acknowledges that some ideas will take time and persistence to achieve. In these cases, he encourages us to take a step-by-step approach while keeping your vision firmly in view. For example, if your vision includes creating a new approach to health care for the elderly, you might start by volunteering in the field, then use the experience to obtain an entry-level job. In time, you might seek increasingly senior management positions, while gaining further knowledge of current research. Finally, you might seek opportunities to influence decision makers and ultimately launch your proposals for revising the health-care system. To maintain such a long-term perspective, Boldt convinces readers that they must learn to change, adapt and persist to fulfil their life's mission. He encourages us to engage in continuous learning and gives solid advice on how to define a development plan and select appropriate resources. He also describes how to build a support network and provides realistic suggestions for maintaining enthusiasm and self-belief. Given the introspective nature of the book, you may find it difficult to stay focused at times. But in true 'career coach' style, Boldt is consistently at your side, pointing out where you might be going wrong and offering suggestions to get you back on track. For example, many of us use money as an excuse not to follow our dreams. We think it is impossible to live the lives we really want while feeling financially secure. Boldt illustrates why many of us approach our lives from this perspective of 'scarcity'. We fear we will never have enough, and so fight to earn more and control our resources. The alternative, according to a number of key anthropologists, is to approach our work and our lives from the perspective of 'plenty'. If we believe we will always have enough, we will co-operate with others rather than fight for resources, and be grateful for what we have rather than obsessively seek more. This way, we free ourselves to pursue the life we really want. If you feel the call to 'be something more', there is no better book to get you started. Title: Zen and the Art of Making a Living Author: Laurence G. Boldt Publisher: Arkana; The Penguin Group How To have more than a job Choose to live purposefully; see your work as an expression of yourself and as an opportunity to serve others. Free yourself from purely materialistic expectations; consider how personal satisfaction and contributing can be your reward. Create a vision for yourself and your world, then decide what you can do to make this vision a reality. Analyse your talents, gifts, values and preferred working environments. Research jobs and decide what kind of roles will be the best fit while contributing to the greater good. Talk to others who hold jobs you might like, or take up voluntary positions to gain experience. Adopt a structured and planned approach to finding the work that best suits your mission in life: set clear goals and develop first-class self-marketing skills. Work through self-limiting beliefs and fears - free yourself to fulfil your purpose. Accept that sometimes you will be able to take only small steps towards your goals. Keep your vision in sight and reward yourself for each success. Set up support networks and engage in continuous learning to help you stay on track in your career.