Your Most Important Job Is To Stay Astonished.


What do you do? It’s a question you probably hear almost every day. It’s one of those core, calibrative questions that help us figure out each other. And you probably answer with variant of your title or job description that reflects your professional endeavors.

But an answer like “I work in sales,” or “I’m a developer” is deceptive. These answers provide only a small glimpse at the tapestry that is your work. What’s more, it doesn’t reflect that work common among us all - the work inherent in human experience.

Mary Oliver, who is amongst America’s greatest living poets, shares her idea of what our work - yours and mine - is.

"My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—

         equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
         keep my mind on what matters,

which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be

The phoebe, the delphinium.

The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.

Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart

         and these body-clothes,

a mouth with which to give shouts of joy

         to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,

telling them all, over and over, how it is

         that we live forever."

When was the last time you stood still and felt astonished? When you take the time to stop, to listen, to watch, it’s not hard to feel that. It can come from watching your children play; listening to the chirp of the crickets ripple through your neighborhood; or feeling the warm embrace of a lover or a friend. Life is astonishing. Experiencing that astonishment is the work that matters most.

You can check out more from Mary Oliver here.