Self-realization and the significance of work


Self-realization is about doing things that you feel are important to you. These things give you fulfilment, joy, and enthusiasm. Self-realization is a crucial part of a meaningful (work)life. In addition, self-realization is one of the possible attractive factors behind becoming an entrepreneur. Over the past year,  we have looked at how self-employed people and micro-entrepreneurs participating in the Entrefox – 55 + Entrepreneurship and Working Life project, work to maintain the experience of the significance of work in everyday life.

We have organised coaching and peer groups in Uusimaa for entrepreneurs over the age of 55. The entrepreneurs have identified at least three perspectives on how to self-realize oneself at work.

Firstly, entrepreneurs were able to trust and respect their own knowledge in everyday choices. Self-confidence was driven by solid knowledge and acceptance of one’s own strengths and weaknesses, which came with life experience. As an example, entrepreneurs mentioned the ability to evaluate their own ideas and the confidence that these ideas would develop into business opportunities. In addition, the recognition of their own limits and interests guided entrepreneurs in building the work.

The second perspective for one’s self-realization was the ability to use one’s own skills and abilities at work. The professional skills were especially important to entrepreneurs in this context. For example, an entrepreneur doing customer service compared himself (with a smile) to an opera singer as he described his work with clients – he had the same kind of passion towards his own work as he thought performing artists would. The so-called entrepreneurial expertise, such as financial management, sales, or marketing, was not sufficient to maintain the significance of the work.

Thirdly, entrepreneurs saw the continuous deepening or expansion of professional skills as a way to realize themselves. For example, the therapist learned mutually supportive treatment methods and the sports entrepreneur studied mindfulness skills.

The centrality of self-realization in working life is also linked to the individualization or personalization of working life. Personalization of working life refers to the weakening of class and professional identities and the personal construction of identity in relation to work that replaces them.  Instead of identifying with a group of entrepreneurs in the field of sports or professional writers, the relationship to work depends on personal qualities or achievements. However, an identity detached from social support networks and experiences of similarity is a risk that the limits of coping will be met.

It should also be mentioned that self-realization is by no means the only thing that leads to realizing the significance of work. In an earlier blog post, we highlighted the community dimension – helping others – as a mean of maintaining and increasing the significance of work.


Sara Lindström & Heli Ansio