The Filipino word for work is HANAPBUHAY. It is such a beautiful word because it captures what work is supposed to be in our culture. Work is not just about earning money, it is about finding life (hanap = to find + buhay = life). The word hanapbuhay reminds us that we should see work, and success in work, from a slightly different perspective.

How do we find life at work? Here are some suggestions:

1) Answer this question: what makes me feel alive?

You can start by going through this free test in ViaCharacter.Org to know your character strengths. Millions of people have taken the free VIA survey to discover their greatest strengths so they can use them in their everyday lives. Research shows that using your character strengths can help you: improve your relationships, enhance your overall wellbeing, strengthen your ability to overcome problems, and build resilience.

There’s also a clear correlation between the ability to use your top character strengths at work to your stick-ability and loyalty to your work. If work is to become an extension and expression of your life, then you need to know what makes you feel alive for work to make you feel alive. This is the point when people say their work is like a vocation. To put it simply, what you’re looking for in work is basically the following:

  • does this work fit your personality?
  • are you interested in doing it, or do you drag your feet every morning?
  • does it make your strengths come out?

Some things will have to give, but looking at all three questions together will give you a perspective that is a little deeper than just asking yourself if the work earns you money.

Research has found that only 33% of people have an active awareness of their strengths. Imagine a world where we all knew — and used our strengths to their fullest potential!


2) Define what success is for you.

So many people are unhappy because they miss doing this fundamental step. St. Ignatius of Loyola has this contemplation where you’re supposed to imagine yourself on your death bed. Will you have regrets? Who will be there? From that perspective, what will you say made you most happy? Will you feel you have succeeded? That exercise is a good “relativizer”: the fundamental question asked is this–if you continue on this path you’re taking (including the job you’re doing now), will you be happy on your deathbed or not?

3) Quiet the fears within.

People who have done steps 1 and 2 can get stuck and not do anything about it because they’re very afraid of the consequences of their actions. It may mean leaving a lucrative career. Or transfer to another city. Or leaving people behind. The way to defeat fear is to plan and then make very concrete steps towards those. We usually only have light enough to take the next step. Careful planning and then “step-by-step” doing gives us the psychological confidence to follow through on steps 1 and 2 without feeling too paralyzed by fear.

4) Research!

Part of confidence-building and plain prudence is research. It’s more than just thinking about your hanapbuhay. It is about getting your hands dirty. It may mean trying things out part-time, volunteering, finding a mentor, asking people who are already doing what you are just dreaming about. Basically whatever you need to get to a strong conviction and make a decision.

5) Jump!

When you’ve arrived at a particularly strong conviction, make the jump. In english, it is called Leap of Faith. Another Filipino word captures it perfectly– PANANAMPALATAYA. It comes from the root word TAYA–to risk, to bet. But because you’ve done steps 1-4, it is NOT blind faith. It is a risk-taking faith. Because you did your job, you can bet your life on it.

“Of course I doubt. I do not practice a certainty. I practice a faith.”

— Robert Brault

Who was it who said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a grain of wheat. Whoever loses his life will find it?” In your death bed, you will think back on your life and realize that was how you found your life.

You found it by risking it.

You have a minute? You might also find these interesting:

Or if you have 10 minutes, you might want to pray today:

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