What is Right Livelihood?

While my own work in the area of Life Purpose and Vocation (“vocare” means calling in Latin) started in 1995, mirroring my own journey and several career transitions, the term “right livelihood” is borrowed from Buddhism, where “right livelihood” means work that is compatible with one’s continual spiritual development.

Here, in our context, Right Livelihood means expressing your Life Purpose through your work and your life. It means knowing who you are and why you are here – in the biggest possible scope – and aligning your life to your vocation, purpose, and values. It is a journey of ongoing refinement of your calling, self-expression, vocation, and contribution.

It is about knowing what you cannot not do. And doing it, oftentimes despite all odds. There will be challenges along the way, together with moments and times of tremendous joy, fulfillment, and meaning. Such is the nature of a life lived when we become aware of our experiences along the path, learn to integrate the darkest and the brightest moments of our past and present, and focus our unique gifts towards the world outside of our personal scope. The paradox of one’s Right Livelihood is that, while it is very individual, it is absolutely not personal at the same time.

It is about living the life you were meant to live, of passion, joy, fulfillment, and of making a difference. It is about being truly alive. It is about answering the question, “What has your life been preparing you for?

I was interviewed by Peter Shulte and Lisa Pellegrino of Kindling on all things Right Livelihood (November 24, 2016), and you can listen to it here. Peter also wrote a beautiful and touching article about his Right Livelihood journey, which you can read here. On July 1, 2021, Chela Davison and I had a rich, emergent, juicy, and heart-filled conversation on her “What is Leadership?” podcast, covering a wide territory – from Right Livelihood to presence to leadership to the Enneagram to the importance of deep inner work.