What type of work should you be doing?

I like career tests almost as much as I like personality quizzes*. And yesterday I stumbled on a really good one! The Sparketype Test.

The guy who created it, Jonathan Fields, has a podcast called the Good Life Project. He has interviewed all the usual suspects (another Brene Brown/Seth Godin/Elizabeth Gilbert interview, anyone? Sure. Why not? I always learn something new). I like his gentle, seemingly ego-free personality and the questions he asks guests. He always ends with, “When you hear the phrase ‘good life’–‘live a good life’–what does that mean to you?” GOOD QUESTION!

He’s worked with tons of people on finding meaning and purpose, particularly as it pertains to work, and after seeing patterns emerge again and again, he came up with a test for helping people identify the type of work that “lights them up” (thus, “Sparketype”).

I already know what kind of work I love. The reason I know, for sure, is because each time I finish shooting something, I make a list of other things I like to do that would be easier and likely more profitable, but I never can commit to doing any of them, so I suck it up and start writing the next script. But I can’t resist a self-test, so I took it. And I found the questions really interesting, and sort of surprising.

He has categorized types of work in a unique way, that I’d never thought about til I saw the phrasing of the questions on the self-test.

Before you take it, he tells you to answer honestly–don’t pick responses that reflect how you’d like to be, or how you think you should be. I was glad he said this, because I might’ve been tempted to side with some of the more altruistic statements in the test. Even though I of course like helping others, it turns out this is not my driver regarding work. In his follow-up “Sparketype Mastery Guide”–which I bought, because I’m a schmuck–he explains why this is not something to feel bad about.

If you take the free quiz, let me know what Sparketype you are. Mine is “The Maker” (making ideas manifest) and my secondary/shadow Sparketype is “The Maven” (driven to learn). Your secondary Sparketype is not necessarily a type of work you should pursue but instead an activity you probably perform “in service to” your primary Sparketype (i.e., I learn about a particular topic so that I can make better things).

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*The two best personality tests ever:

  • Gretchen Rubin’s “The Four Tendencies” (apparently, most people are either a Questioner or an Obliger. The rarer types are Upholders and Rebels. Rubin has figured out how to work around the challenges you face, depending on your type, so that you can attain any goal, finishing whatever you start): https://quiz.gretchenrubin.com/four-tendencies-quiz/

Gretchen Rubin makes de-cluttering less overwhelming


This video has stayed in my head because it features a very do-able piece of advice from Gretchen Rubin, the appealing, slightly nerdy author of “The Happiness Project.” De-cluttering one’s living space is a key tenet in her bestselling book, which details her year-long experiment attempting to increase her level of happiness. Readers benefit from the exhaustive-sounding research she did—the book is loaded with memorable insights and concrete advice on how to have a richer, more satisfying life.

From “The Happiness Project”:

“One April day, on a morning just like every other morning, I had a sudden realization: I was in danger of wasting my life. As I stared out the rain-splattered window of a city bus, I saw that the years of my life were slipping by. ‘What do I want from life anyway?’ I asked myself. … But I had never thought about what made me happy or how I might be happier. … I wasn’t depressed and I wasn’t having a midlife crisis, but I was suffering from midlife malaise—a recurrent sense of discontent and almost a feeling of disbelief.

‘Is this really it?'”

It just occurred to me that a recipe for unhappiness is to want things over which you have no control.

When my husband and I moved to L.A., it was to pursue screenwriting careers. To be considered for movie projects in particular, you basically have to sell a screenplay first. I was determined, and I made a conscious decision to stop pursuing other interests, at least temporarily, so that I could spend as much time writing as possible. Years passed, in which I kept telling myself, “I’ll start painting again once I’ve sold a script.” “It would be nice to get a dog, once I’ve sold a script.” Finally, at some point—I’m sure a very low point, thankfully I’ve blocked out the details—I realized I was postponing happiness, and that everything hinged on this goal that wasn’t necessarily in my control. So, I decided to make a list of all the things I wanted to do, that I had been putting off, and to start doing as many of the things as possible. One of the items on my list was another longtime goal, that of making a movie. If you know what goes into making a movie, you’ll understand why I thought it would be easier to sell a script than to make a movie and why I had put it off. Both things are hard, but here’s the critical difference: selling a script is not in one’s control and making a movie is.

I’m curious whether there has ever been a time in your life when you thought consciously about whether or not you were happy and took specific steps to try to increase your happiness?