Finding Fulfilling Work is Like an Easter Egg Hunt

It is Easter weekend and I find myself remembering my children at 3 and 5 excitedly exploring the house for the colorful eggs and other goodies (plastic wind-up chicks, jelly beans in pick plastic wrap and the like) left by the elusive bunny. I loved watching the kids dash from place to place excitedly shrieking with glee when they discovered an egg or foil wrapped treat. The joy in their little faces at uncovering an unexpected goodie was  truly a wondrous thing. Once the more obvious eggs had been located, the process evolved into a more serious hunt. Although the kids would diligently follow our suggestions of where to look, they were most proud and excited about the treasures they discovered on their own.

Finding fulfilling work is sort of like an Easter egg hunt. First you look at the obvious: what your education, skills and training qualify you to do and hope there is a match in the current market. When there isn’t, we need to look harder. Consider: How might your particular set of gifts, experience, and abilities benefit others? What talents do you possess that the world needs? Who needs your talents? This applies whether you are seeking employment or considering starting a business. 

We often fail to recognize that our gifts; things that come easily to us, can be marketable skills. Do you have a green thumb with plants? Are you creative in the kitchen? Do you tinker with cars or bikes on the weekends? Are you a movie buff that enjoys critiquing films? How might your interests, where your talents are often demonstrated, be applicable to the workplace? What are your transferable (non-occupational specific) skills?

I challenge you to look beyond your work history, your education, and your stated “qualifications”. Find those less obvious eggs and put them into your basket, for fulfilling work.

Respond To Your Calling

I believe that each and every human on the planet possesses a unique combination of gifts and talents that need to be expressed in the world. I view our physical being as the vehicle that houses our soul, our essence, our personality, through which these gifts flow.

What are you dreaming of doing, of creating, of finding? These thoughts are prompting you to take some action! We tend to sit in our minds complacently pondering the “what ifs” and wondering about the roads not taken in the past and years go by. Sound familiar? How about these thoughts: “I can’t switch careers now, I am too old” or “I’d have to go back to school and get a degree/training/certified”, or “the economy is bad, now is the wrong time for me to start a business”.

What are you telling yourself that is holding you back from pursuing your life’s work? Make a list, write it down and then go through each and every thought and look at it boldly and ask; “is this really true?” If your inclination is to nod your head just stop for a moment and watch the “proof” that your minds puts up. How do you know the internal dialog you are listening to is the truth? What if it isn’t? What if you could move beyond the naysaying in your brain and embrace a different perspective? Challenge yourself! What do you dream of doing, of becoming? Play around with ways you can share your talents, your abilities, your knowledge and skills with others. Who knows? You just may find yourself turning your dreams into reality!

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening
That is translated through you into action,
And because there is only one of you in all time,
This expression is unique.

If you block it,
It will never exist through any other medium
And will be lost.
The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is:
nor how valuable it is:
Nor how it compares with other expression.
It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly,
To keep the channel open.

You do not have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware and listen
To the urges that motivate you.”
–Martha Graham and Agnes Demille

Doing Work You Love

What is the purpose of working? Is it just a paycheck, a way to buy stuff? Or is it an expression of your values, talents and skills? For most of us in the U.S. it is a combination of both. Far too many of us view work as a necessary evil to be tolerated in order to live a preferred lifestyle. Given the number of hours we spend working, what does that say about our overall happiness? If we view work as drudgery, how can we experience a fulfilling meaningful life?

I propose a different perspective on work. How about looking at work as a vehicle to joyfully express your talents, skills, and creativity and make a difference in the world? It would be great if we came with directions for our life internally imprinted so that we’d know exactly what vocational path to travel. As the poet Rumi said, “everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in his (or her) heart.” It seems to me that doing work you love to do get’s you closer to uncovering your heart’s desire than doing work you dislike.

One way to identify potentially fulfilling kinds of work, is to look at your natural gifts and talents. Make a list of all the things you enjoy doing and do well such as: building boats, organizing data, healing emotional distress, keeping track of timelines. Joe, for example, has a talent for taking complex technical information and translating it into terms non-techies can understand. Not only does he do this competently, he really enjoys the process. When he is working on a project, he becomes so engaged in it that he typically loses track of time. The hours fly by and he finds he is energized rather than exhausted at the end of his workday. Joe is perhaps doing “the work that has been put in (his) heart”, as Rumi states.

We often think there is some profound “calling” to heed and that one day we will figure out what that is. In reality, callings don’t often show up with a job title. Instead of seeking that perfect career, that “dream job” consider finding a way to create income doing those tasks you do well and love to do.

Megan is a mosaic artist who loves to take beautiful pieces of colored glass and make everything from bird baths to address tiles. She teaches classes on mosiac making, and sells her products from her home studio, at shows and on the internet.

Take a moment, make your list, and listen to what your heart is telling you. What do YOU love to do that you do well? Get input from your friends and family. You may be surprised at the talents they recognize in you. See if you can come up with a list of 10 things and then look at how you may be able to generate income doing some of them.

More on this topic next post!

“Everyone has a vocation, talent is the call.” -Emerson

Twelve Questions to Help You Find Your Calling

150 years ago peoples’ jobs were primarily determined by what they had a talent for – people worked at crafts and provided services based on their natural skills and interests. In modern times, most of us end up choosing careers for all sorts of reasons that have little or nothing to do with what we enjoy and are naturally good at. We end up in careers that are inherently wrong fits for us and we languish in cubicles or stress out in jobs we don’t like. What if we got in touch with our hidden talents and found a way to utilize our natural gifts to do work that we found satisfying, or even fun? Here are 12 questions for you to ponder to help you discover what might become your life’s work:

1. What do you love to do? Think about your hobbies, interests, recreational and volunteer activities. Most of us enjoy doing things we are good at, so our leisure activities can be indicators of your gifts and talents.

2. Recall an event when you were so absorbed in what you were doing that you completely lost track of time. What activity were you engaged in? How did it make you feel?

3. What do you naturally do well? What actions are easy for you? (for example: writing stories, fixing things, analyzing trends, cooking, organizing events, managing money, remembering facts, teaching, envisioning new ways of being, resolving disputes, creating beauty, etc.)

4. What are five things in your life, past or present, which you are most proud of or feel were your most successful accomplishments?

5. Is there a cause, a movement, or an idea that you feel committed to and passionate about? What would you “put it all on the line” for?

6. Think of a time when you experienced a breakthrough
Can you describe what you were doing and where you were when you had an “ah ha” moment?

7. Looking back over your life up to now, do you see any repeating incidents, patterns or themes? What can they tell you about what you like (or don’t like) to do with your time?

8. What do you daydream or fantasize about doing? Have you ever said, “Some day I’d like to do that?” What would that be?

9. Can you think of a time when you were watching or reading about another person’s accomplishment(s) and wished you could do that? Is there a person living or dead that you greatly admire? What do you most admire that person for?

10. Do you have a sense that you have things yet to accomplish? Try to identify those. From the perspective of being at the end of your life and looking back, what will it feel like if you never attempt to do these things? What do you still want to do in your life?

11. What kind of work would you do if you knew you could not fail and money was not an issue? Think big here!  Would you work on saving the environment, advocate for social justice issues, create art or write direct a motion picture?

12. What do you want to be remembered for? How will you have contributed to the world?

On Becoming Entrepreneurial

In the U.S., we have been brought up to believe in the 40 hour work week being employed by someone else. There is of course another option; you can become an entrepreneur instead of an employee. Given current labor market conditions, being your own boss is mighty attractive. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. What do you love to do that you do really well? For instance, is it natural for you to be consistently on time, plan full and efficient? Do you like keeping your home or office neat and orderly, “a place for everything and everything in its place”? Do you get energized by this? If you answered yes to these questions, one of your transferable skills is being an organizer. Think about the many ways this talent and ability of yours can contribute to others. Don’t stop with one example, brainstorm until you identify at least five more things you really do well and enjoy doing.

2. Who needs what you have to offer? Once you’ve identified your skills, talents, and passions, it is time to determine where they may best be useful. Is there a need for whatever product or service you want to share with others? You may be the greatest cookie baker in three states but if there isn’t a need for a cookie store in your area it’s not a good idea to start a bakery. Consider all the life experience you’ve had, how might that be useful to others? How can you be of service in the world? Using your list of transferable skills from question number one will help you brainstorm some possibilities.

3. Is there someone else doing the kind of business you are considering? Identify those people and organizations. For instance, if you are thinking of doing a doggy daycare, see who else has one and check it out. Note what you like and don’t like about their advertising, facility, customer service, etc. How do they get customers? How might you approach your target customers differently? What might you improve on?

4. Is being self employed a right fit for your personality and lifestyle? If you’ve been an employee for years, you may find it challenging to switch your perspective to that of self bosser. It can be tremendously fulfilling to create you own business, work when, where and how you choose to, and not have to get someone else’s permission.

Are you ready to step into your power and put your talents to work?