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Opinion: Practicing the subtle art of the quiet calling

‘Quiet quitting’ has been in circulation recently, but what about its near opposite, the quiet calling?

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A nurse speaks with an elderly woman about medications

The quiet calling is the one that may not turn a large profit, but that greatly benefits our communities.

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As a general rule, provocative ideas grab the headlines. In the world of the workplace, for example, there is a lot of discussion about “quiet quitting,” which I suppose could mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

What definitely would not raise the pulse of the Twitter feed or send Google searches trending is a much more subtle, though certainly not less noble approach to the workplace: practicing the art of the quiet calling.

If there was one book I would recommend on this subject, it would be New York Times opinion columnist David Brooks’ latest book, “The Second Mountain: How People Move from the Prison of Self to the Joy of Commitment.” 

This practice of the quiet calling is important for everyone, but particularly for those that work on the front lines of society’s problems and promise: primary care health providers, social service workers, civil servants and teachers.

While the prospects for fabulous monetary rewards may not be at hand, there are other ways to maximize workplace satisfaction and productivity that speak to the very reason you or I joined our particular profession.

Let me review a few of the finer points of practicing the art of the quiet calling that might give a boost to your professional malaise.

Remember why you chose your profession

Personally, I can’t believe that it took me nearly 20 years as a university teacher to recognize this. Blinded by the lights of cutting-edge research agendas and pontificating prestige, I finally remembered back to an 18-year-old boy that was asked to teach Sunday School as a freshman in college.

There was something almost volcanic that shot through my soul in that setting. It wasn’t solely the subject matter that resonated, but also the thrill to stand in front of a group of people, share what I had learned during the previous week and engage in mutually beneficial discussion.

When I remembered why I became a teacher, it made a huge difference in how I approached my job and made coming to work each day more satisfying. Sometimes we have to cut through certain aspects of our responsibilities, even if they are more highly valued in the workplace, to remember why we took up a calling into our profession.

Continue to refine your practice

If financial incentives are not coming your way, don’t succumb to paralyzing frustration. Engage in the zen-like experience of using your creativity and sensitivity for helping others to benefit those you are paid to serve. 

When I was in Singapore a few years ago, I came across the small figurine of a Buddhist figure known as a bodhisattva at the Museum of Asian Civilizations. The bodhisattva is one who has achieved enlightenment but chosen to remain among others to help them find equal fulfillment.

That simple sculpture inspired me to want to be a better teacher — giving something more than the simple product I am paid to impart.

Those working in the social and health services, not to mention the schools and a myriad of other settings have taken up the same commitment. In refining one’s skills, there is a reciprocal sense of satisfaction that floods the soul. I also know that new opportunities will ensue from further sharpening of your skills.

Refrain from becoming cynical

Treating others to the gold standard of service in your profession creates its own rewards, and produces moments of dignity that help a nurse, a teacher or a social worker to truly make a difference in another person’s life.

Retain small tokens of success

Aside from my paycheck, I dearly value the short thank you notes that students have shared with me over the years. They act as a quick pick-me-up on a day that didn’t go as well as planned, or, even more importantly, cause me to remember why I chose the profession I have.

There are few magic formulas for increasing wealth in a particularly trying time. However, practicing the “art of the quiet calling” boosts morale, renews the zest for reaching out to others and refreshes the weary workplace soul. 

Evan Ward is associate professor of history at Brigham Young University, where he teaches courses on world history.