BOOK REVIEW of "Working Whole" by Kourtney Whitehead


Kourtney Whitehead’s book Working Whole promotes a dual approach to discovering personal satisfaction in one’s career a manner certain to resonate with readers across a wide spectrum.  Whitehead thoughtfully acknowledges the varying levels of dissatisfaction many feel in their professional lives and advocates how self-awareness, spiritual principles, and perceptiveness about our place in the world can often produce more satisfying results in our public lives. She is careful to note, however, that what she advocates isn’t a religious approach – instead, she pursues a line of thought during the book’s first half focused far more on exploring qualities her experience has taught her offer greater results for individuals rather single-mindedly pursuing material success or feeling weighed down by the drudgery of a disliked job.  

She opens the bulk of the text with an examination of what she considers one of the prime engines for advancing our self growth, particularly in a career setting – humility. She makes an convincing argument we realize our potential for joy and fulfillment when we view ourselves not as the focal point for all experience, but instead as part of a larger human community where we are no more or less important than anyone else. This decision, in Whitehead’s experience, unchains us from the burden of seeing ourselves as overly special or branded as some sort of failure or fraud in front of our peers. We are, essentially, freed to be our truest selves.

The text’s well structured movement  goes on to cover other topics in the first half like the idea of surrender  and how that comports with our pursuit of individual goals. Whitehead does an excellent job of establishing how accepting things as they yet still desiring to achieve more can co-exist with a balanced approach to each side of the scale. Our attention turns towards the inherent worth of our lives and those around us rather than consuming ourselves with our aims alone. It reinforces the theme of integration guiding much of her thoughts during the book’s early pages.  She employs some illuminating devices along the way to outline her ideas, namely referencing Freytag’s Pyramid and how literary storyline structure often mimics our everyday lives and professional journeys. It’s another moment indicative of Whitehead’s expansive thoughts on the topic and serves readers well.

Some might take an initial view of the book’s contents and wonder how Whitehead can present an unified approach centered on such potentially broad ideas. Lesser writers or thinkers might have groped for a manner to adequately unpack topics like patience, identity, gratitude, and others, but Whitehead’s succinct prose does to in a clear and personable way while also revealing the multi-faceted connections behind her thoughts.  Moreover, the work draws a clear path and how these interrelated ideas can push our lives forward if we maintain focus on growth and self improvement. She ends the book with thoughts on the nature of community and it provides a fitting conclusion for Working Whole. Though Whitehead rightly points out early on there are similar books to her own readers can seek out  touching on the same thoughts and themes, Working Whole’s journaling activities and uniquely personal, even revealing, touch set it apart. It’s well worth anyone’s time who contemplates the challenges of balancing personal fulfillment with a rewarding professional life.


Anne Hollister

Anne Hollister

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