You want a life you will love. One where you get up in the morning and are eager to start all over again. Is that how you feel these days? Or does that sound like an impossible dream? If you aren’t waking up excited about the day ahead, you are lacking a goal that will make you feel that way. You are lacking work that will build a high level of energy and a deep level of contentment and help you make a lasting contribution that reflects your passion and purpose.
Work like that comes when a deep hunger in the world intersects with a deep passion in you. I refer to it as a “calling” – that unique pursuit of your heart’s desire to make a difference that brings happiness and joy to your daily life as it contributes to the betterment of the world. Research tells us, over and over, that people who describe themselves as “happy” have two things in common:
- They know exactly what they want – they have a clear direction and purpose.
- They feel their daily actions are congruent with that direction and purpose.
It’s what makes life feel good – when it has a clear direction/purpose and when you do work every day that you love. (Yes, love, not just enjoy!)
You don’t get a life worth living by doing what you can do – you get it by doing what you want to do, what you were meant to do. You get it by believing intensely in the work that your soul tells you is your gift to the world. You get it by doing the work you love, the work you would do even if no one paid you to do it. Repeat after me: What I love is what I am gifted at doing. This is how great things are accomplished in this world – by people who have a passionate love for something greater than themselves, and who use their talents in the service of this goal, and who are willing to put everything they have into it.
If you don’t know what you want, you will work at jobs that make you feel bad about yourself; or that bore you to tears; or that make you feel defeated, sad or mad. But here’s a shock: I think you DO know what you want. That’s what makes you restless; you sense that there is something you are meant to be doing. And you are correct! Think of your favorite famous person – Albert Einstein, perhaps? Albert knew he was meant to formulate theories of physics that would change the world. He needed to do it. He was the one person uniquely qualified to do it at that point in time. Just like Albert, you are one of a kind – an original. There’s no one quite like you, and your original way of looking at the world always needs to be expressed. It’s a life force that won’t take no for an answer – that’s why you have the continual nagging that won’t leave you alone. Your soul knows the direction of your destiny and it’s trying to get you to listen.
You can choose to shut down that nagging feeling, and every time you promise yourself to seek the work you love, you can let your resolve waver and fade, and you will end up telling yourself, “Aw, forget about it – my job at least pays the bills and gives me a place to go every day.” You can put the dream aside, and you will feel a bit uneasy because time is passing and then a dull fear will set in that you may never realize your true calling. It’s a deadening process, not one that is life-giving.
Usually there are two things at play in that lifeless process:
- There are so many choices in today’s work world that it can feel overwhelming to know which path to choose. Our culture has been so successful that we’ve never had so much freedom of choice as we do today.
- But that same freedom is a two sided coin: one side is gloriously exciting and the other side is a torment because it requires us to choose our own goals and commit to bringing them to fruition.
As one author points out (Barbara Sher, Wishcraft) more people are depressed in peacetime than in war. In war everything is important; every day, you know clearly what you have to do in order to survive and that gives you direction and purpose. That’s why we thrill to movies about people whose lives are in danger because everything they do has meaning and importance. But when life is relatively comfortable, and there’s no crisis pushing us, we have to create our own goals that have meaning for us. We must become the author of our life story, and that is an awesome responsibility.
If you don’t know what work would make your heart sing, you need to understand what keeps you from knowing it. Once you start to grasp the source of your confusion, you can do something about it. This is not as hard as it may sound because once you start paying attention, you will find that your inner conflicts are actually pretty loud. It’s like there’s two voices inside you: one voice is arguing in favor of getting what you want, and the other is determined to shut you down. Listen to the voice that is the loudest and it will lead you directly to the strategies that can help you.
For ex, if your voice says, “I can’t quit my job to get what I really want – I’d starve and become homeless.” There’s a lot of fertile ground in that fear and a good career or life coach can help you turn that soil over to see what’s underneath. It could be that you have denied the opportunities that have come your way because you wanted security and safety. Whatever courage was called for to take a risk, you were not sure you possessed it and so you hugged the shore while constantly looking at the horizon, vacillating between longing and regret. Deep down, however, you really crave adventure and you know you have stayed too long at your job – you’re well past the point of every being happy there.
A coach can help you measure how over cautious you are by asking key questions, such as “Do you feel you are always in rehearsal? “ and “When it’s time to make any kind of decision, like taking a trip, do you create endless preparations, constantly hesitating, calling friends for advice?” or “Do you resist being pushed one tiny bit more than suits you, to the point of ignoring deadlines, and becoming stubborn if someone tries to warn you?” Playing it safe is riskier than you may realize because time waits for no one, and time is the only real wealth we are given in this life. Ask an old person and they will tell you that the things they regret are the things they didn’t do, and the adventures they didn’t take.
Let me close this blog with a recommendation and an observation: Nurturing your unique passion is deeply personal to you and it comes from your real self, the one with the original ideas, who sees the world in a way that is one of a kind. When you decide to go for it, this will be a true adventure of your mind, body and spirit. It will light up your life with the thrill of daring to live your dream. You won’t be marking time anymore, but you will be fully awake, aware and creative. And you will have perfectly positioned yourself at this moment in time – because in the global economy, everyone is going to have to figure out what kind of work they really want to do, sooner or later.
Gone is the time when you would choose one career and stay in it for your entire working life. College grads can now expect to hold 10-12 jobs in 3-5 different careers over their lifetime. We are already in a world where everyone is a consultant and/or entrepreneur, working from home, working flex time, working on a project to project basis, according to our special talents. Those of you who are willing to find the work you love and make it into a niche for yourself will excel. Your unique gifts will never have been more needed!