The noted author and interviewer Studs Terkel once observed that people aren't looking for a job, but rather for a calling, since jobs aren't big enough for people. This activity is designed (1) to help you identify where you stand on a number of major life issues and (2) to help you explore whether these "fit" with the major commitments you have assumed in your personal and work life.

qwerIn our view, the "big picture" issues of who you are and what you believe deserve careful reflection. And if these issues have true meaning to you, then many of the other day-by-day issues in your life will take care of themselves over time. If, on the other hand, these issues do not have true meaning and importance for you, then you run the risk of experiencing existential stress, of having the felt sense that you're not really at home in your own skin.

Take a few moments now, follow the directions and reflection prompts below, and begin your thoughtful self-assessment.

Directions: First, print the table (this page or the printer friendly version). Second, cut out each cell. Third, sort the cells from most to least important.

Printer Friendly Table


To feel a strong sense of mutual connection with family, friends, your work, a cause, etc.
To have a felt sense of personal power in your own life
To have opportunities in your work and/or personal life to create new and original ideas, concepts, programs, etc.

To have ongoing opportunities in your life for personal growth and development

To be actively involved in maintaining and enhancing your overall well-being
To have freedom of thought and action in your personal and work life
To structure your life in a way which affords you enough leisure time and/or a preferred lifestyle

To enjoy life


To live life in harmony with a personally meaningful ethical code or set of principles
To contribute to the betterment of the life of others
To be connected with an integrating positive force in the universe (God, higher power, consciousness, nature etc.)


To engage in endeavors, paid or unpaid, which are satisfying to self and of benefit to society

After Sorting

Now that you have finished your initial sort, here's a quick way to double-check that they truly reflect your priorities.

  • Look at the LAST item on your list, then pretend that we're going to steal it from you forever. Do the same in turn for all the other items on the list, working from the bottom up.

  • If your rearranged list is accurate for you at this point in time, then the general life issues of absolutely most importance to you are the ones you want to protect most strongly, and which therefore need to be at the top of your list

After you have completed sorting, reflect on what your responses mean to you. That is, why are the items at the top of your list important to you? What clusters of items are related? And, perhaps most importantly, do your behaviors indeed reflect what you say is important?

To follow up on that last question, consider this: as an experiment, just look at the top 3 or 4 items on your sorted list. Since these are the items you have identified as most important to you, answer the following questions: in the last week, to what extent have these issues been an important part of my daily living? In the last month, to what extent have these issues been an important part of my daily living? Over the past several months, to what extent have these issues been an important part of my daily living?