When I talk about people finding occupations that are engaging and fulfilling for them (as I did yesterday), I often hear this question: “That’s nice, but if everyone just did what they want, how would all the unpleasant stuff ever get done?”

There’s an assumption inherent to the question which I think bears acknowledgment. The assumption is that we all want to be doing the same things, and that the things we don’t want to do (the unpleasant ones) are also the same. If this were the case – if we all liked and didn’t like the same jobs and activities – then indeed we’d be in trouble if we committed ourselves to getting everyone busy with what they preferred.

But we don’t like the same things. We don’t find the same things engaging and we don’t find the same things tiresome or loathsome. One of the happiest-looking people I ever saw at work was collecting trash on a municipal truck, a job many others would find very unpleasant. I know people who hop out of bed in the morning eager to get to their marketing jobs, and people who work in the arts who are miserable.

Our preferences are not the same, and so we don’t need to worry about a pile-up in just a few professions. I think we have enough diversity of preference that we can get everything done that needs doing and also enough willingness to share anything that really needs to get done even if none of us are especially eager to do it.

And if we get things done by choosing work that fits and suits us individually whenever possible, I bet we get it all done in a healthier more sustainable manner.