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Morrissey College of Arts and Science

UN56201 Finding and Following
Your Life’s Calling

capstone program

Professor Brad Harrington, Executive Director

Boston College Center for Work and Family
22 Stone Avenue, Chestnut Hill, MA

Phone: 617-552-4544

Office Hours: Mondays 1:00-3:00 p.m. or by appointment. Please call or e-mail me at any time to set up a meeting.


Brad Harrington and Douglas T. Hall: Career Management and Work-Life Integration: Using Self-Assessment to Navigate Contemporary Careers (Sage, 2007).

Gregg Levoy: Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life (Random House, 1997)

Courtney Martin: Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists (Beacon Press, 2010)

Course Packet: Through BC Bookstore or via Blackboard Vista
Career Values Card Sort – Available at the BC Bookstore
Strong Interest Inventory – Available on BC Career Center Website

Course Overview

We are living in a time of change. It seems that nearly every major sphere of our lives is undergoing transformation—work, families, communities, politics, and the world order. There are macro-trends that are driving these changes: technology, the environment, dramatic changes in the political and economic landscape. But it seems that many of these macro-changes are also profoundly impacting us as individuals, as family members, as employees, and as citizens. These trends are also creating a much greater need for us to choreograph, manage, and create our own lives as traditional models for the roles we play and what we do fall by the wayside. In order to do so effectively, we must possess self-confidence, a sense of direction, and firm grasp of our purpose if we are to find and follow our life’s callings. Doing so requires a profound understanding of our sense of identity—i.e. who am I and who (and how) do I want to be in the world?

Finding and Following Your Life’s Calling is a Capstone course which will strive to help you come to grips with the forces that are changing in your life, but far more importantly, the forces in you that will help you these changes. The foundational aspect of greater self-awareness and self-knowledge will provide the cornerstone of the class and the foundation for your thinking about your life going forward. It will rigorously pursue the question, “How can I best know myself and understand the gifts that I can bring to the world?” We will then use this increased awareness to focus on three primary dimensions of your life:


In recent years, much has been written about the profound changes in that are occurring in both the workplace and the composition and needs of the workforce. The employer-employee contract has been dramatically altered as organizations have moved from practices of lifelong (or long-term) employment to a “free-agent” approach to managing their workforce. This change in the psychological contract has led to the establishment of new career models which are increasingly organization-independent. As individuals depend less on their employers to provide stable jobs and career paths and as changes in the labor market call for more frequent job and even career changes, working people have come to realize that “we are all self employed.” How we can deal with the implications of these changes, and further, to see them as an opportunity to forge our own unique path to “success”, will be a major focus of the course.

Relationship, Families and Gender Roles

Over a 30 year-period, there have been dramatic changes in the structure of American families. Today, the traditional family, made up of a two-parent household where one parent works in the office and the other takes care of the home and the family is fast becoming a thing of the past. Where only 30 years ago, this family structure represented nearly 50% of American families, today it accounts for just 20%. The majority of families today are led by dual-career couples who need to find ways to integrate their work and family responsibilities. At the same time, women’s superior accomplishments in higher education and their desire for greater equality in the workplace have led to a slow but certain shifting of traditional gender roles that have made old stereotypes about families and who does what outdated. How do we think about relationships, families, and the roles we play in those in light of the dramatic differences we have seen over the last generation?


We live in a mobile, technology-enabled society. While greater mobility and technological advances may, on the positive side, make us “citizens of the world”, it also raises many questions: What have we given up in the process? Where do we belong? What is the community in which I am a member? How am I contributing to the betterment of my community (whether it is physical or virtual)? How do we avoid becoming individuals whose “world is their oyster”, but have no place called home.

We are living in a time where well-worn paths may be less useful or relevant, but certain values and attributes are enduring. It is a time, perhaps more than any other, where the individual needs to think for themselves, decide for themselves, navigate for themselves, and care for themselves, not in a selfish way, but in a self-directed way. And only in effectively doing so, are they able to fulfill their life’s calling and give back to society in the most meaningful manner.

The goal of this course is to help students deeply explore what it means to have a clear sense of identity and, in turn, to see how this heightened level of self-understanding will have profound implications in terms of how we live, the work we do, the relationships we engage in, and the sense of community that we experience.

The course will be highly experiential and will include the following components:

  • You will complete a highly rigorous self-assessment process that will help you clarify your life experiences, interests, values, skills, goals, and aspirations.
  • You will utilize the extensive self-assessment information that we generate in the course to develop life themes. These themes will be a series of statements about yourself that you believe to be true based on the in-depth work you have done to develop them.
  • You will utilize your life themes to look at some of the most important dimensions of your life—your career, your relationships, your hopes for family, your connection to community—and ask, “What are implications of my life themes to these important dimensions of your life?”

The course will include readings that will raise your awareness to the important changes that are occurring in our world. But more importantly, we will make extensive use of exercises and instruments to help you achieve a high degree of self-awareness and understanding that will prove useful to you, those you are engaged in important relationships with, and those you work with. Classes will rely heavily on a dialogue and discussions that will be stimulated by the readings and the assessment instruments that we utilize throughout the semester.

Major Assignments

Our primary course objective expected is to master course concepts so you are able to find and fulfill your life’s callings. Since creating a fulfilling life is a lofty goal and difficult to measure, the surrogate will be my evaluation of the three high-caliber papers you will write for the course: The Autobiography, The Self-Assessment Paper and The Implications Paper.

The required assignments for the class are:

Readings and participation

There will be assigned readings that should be completed thoroughly. Due to the large number of exercises and amount of writing required by the course, I do not assign a large volume of reading. But, you should do the readings thoroughly and understand the content such that you are able to intelligently and actively participate in class discussions - a major class expectation.

The Autobiography

The purpose of this activity is to do a very thorough job of recounting and reflecting on the major experiences and people that have influenced your thinking, your work, and your life. The Autobiography should be approximately 20 pages typed, double-spaced. It is due at the beginning of class.

Peer Coaching

Early in the semester, you will choose or be assigned to work as a peer coach to one of your fellow students. The expectation is that you will review your partner’s self-assessment data thoroughly and provide your him/her a 3-4 page summary of your observations and the tentative themes you have identified from their self-assessment data. You will schedule and conduct a 1-2 hour session to review your partner’s results with him/her. Note: Confidentiality of all information is strictly maintained in this class.

Self-Assessment Paper

The Self-Assessment paper is the most important deliverable of the semester. The goal of this paper is to demonstrate your ability to use an inductive, qualitative research approach to identify key themes about yourself that:

  • have a strong bearing on your career-life options, choices, and aspirations
  • are grounded thoroughly in the self-assessment data that you have generated throughout the first half of the semester
  • can become the basis of your career-life plan (your implications paper)

Implications Paper

This assignment will illustrate how you have used the self-assessment process and your readings and research to create a realistic, practical plan for the future. The implications should be concerned with many facets of your life including your career, your relationships and family, your personal pursuits, and your commitment to community.


Class participation 10%
Peer Coaching 10%
Autobiography 15%
Self-Assessment Exercises 10%
Self-Assessment Paper 30%
Implications Paper 15%

Detailed class outline and weekly assignments

Week 1: Course Introduction

  • Why a Capstone?
  • Course overview, group process, and syllabus review
  • The Well Planned Life and The Summoned Life
  • Video: The Man in the Red Bandana
  • Readings:
    • Levoy: Introduction and Chapter 1: The Ear of the Animal
    • Brooks: The Summoned Self

Week 2: Finding Clarity; The Protean Career and Meaning

  • Finding Clarity
  • The Protean Career and the Identity Meta-Competency
  • What gives you joy?
  • Video: Fr. Michael Himes, The Three Questions
  • Readings:
    • Levoy: Chapter 2: Finding Clarity
    • Harrington and Hall: Understanding the New Career

Week 3: Reflecting on Your Past; Personal Histories

  • Thinking of Peak Experiences
  • Reviewing the sample Autobiography
  • Introduction to Thematic Analysis
  • Assignment due: Develop observations from the Sample Autobiography
  • Assignment: Begin your autobiography
  • Readings:
    • Levoy: Chapter 10: Memory’s Vital Secret
    • Baumeister and Wilson: Life Stories and Four Needs for Meaning
    • Harrington and Hall: The Autobiography
    • Harrington: Sample Autobiography

Week 4: The Commitment to Your Calling; Values Clarification

  • Discussion on values and ethics
  • Career Values Exercise
  • Video excerpt: The Zero Impact Man
  • Assignment Due: Your Autobiography
  • Readings:
    • Levoy: Chapter 11: Flight to Tarshish
    • Hull and Holder: Do Your Commitments Match Your Convictions?
    • Harrington and Hall: Clarifying Your Values

Week 5: Your Interests and Passions

  • What really interests me?
  • The Strong Interest Inventory
  • Is it possible to pursue your passions in life?
  • Video: One Child at a Time (from 60 minutes)
  • Readings:
    • Harrington and Hall: Your Interests and Your Passions
    • Boyatzis, McKee and Goleman: Reawakening Your Passion for Work

Week 6: Seeking Help From Others; Your Skills and Unique Gifts

  • What are you good at?
  • What are the unique gifts you can offer the world?
  • The Interview with Significant Others
  • Readings:
    • Levoy: Chapter 15: Ariadne’s Thread
    • Harrington & Hall: Skills Assessment
    • Kruger and Dunning: Unskilled and Unaware

Week 7: Your Dreams and Aspirations

  • What is your personal vision?
  • What, for you, constitutes the ideal life?
  • Lifestyle Representation
  • The Ten Years Out Exercise
  • Readings:
    • Harrington & Hall: Understanding Life Goals and Personal Vision
    • Christensen: How Will You Measure Your Life?

Week 8: Gendered Lives

  • The role that gender plays in our lives
  • Gender and careers
  • Readings:
    • Harrington & Ladge: Got Talent? It Isn’t Hard to Find (from The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation)
    • Kimmel: What Men Really Want

Week 9: Implications (Part 1); Implications;
The Importance of Relationships

  • Discussing the implications of your Life Themes
  • Assignment due: Your Self-Assessment Paper
  • Readings:
    • Harington & Hall: Integrating Your Self-Assessment and Developing Implications
    • Brooks: The Sandra Bullock Dilemma

Week 10: Couples, Marriage, and Family

  • How do we balance work and family?
  • How do things change when kids enter the picture?
  • Guest: Couples Panel on Marriage and Family
  • Readings:
    • Quindlen: The Good Enough Mother
    • Hewlett: Executive Women and the Myth of Having It All
    • Scharf: Fatherhood as Vocation
    • Harrington, Van Deusen & Humberd: The New Dad: Caring Committed and Conflicted

Week 11: The Importance of Community; Citizenship

  • Understanding the importance of community
  • What does it mean to be a good citizen?
  • How can I make a difference in the world?
  • Reading:
    • Martin: Do It Anyway
    • Korelitz: Our Town

Week 13: When Things Derail

  • What do we do when things don’t go according to plan?
  • How do we re-group?
  • Video: Lemonade
  • Reading:
    • Levoy: Chapter 13: The Dignity of Daring
    • Levoy: Chapter 14: The Shadow in the Calling

Week 12: The Goal of Living an Integrated Life

  • How do we live our lives with integrity?
  • Seeing the whole: Work, Home, and Community
  • Guest: Prof. Michael Cassidy, Boston College Law School

Week 14: Course Reflections

  • Personal Reflections and Key Learnings
  • Assignment Due: Your Implications Paper
  • Reading:
    • Levoy: Making Pilgrimage
    • Levoy: Chapter 16: Heartbreakthrough: The Consequences of Saying Yes
    • O’Brien: On Learning from Failure