Career, Passion and Purpose

sunset smllI recently created a new mini-course titled “Find Your Dream Job”.  In planning my two session workshop, I reviewed many of my favorite books and discovered a couple of new ones.  I found similarities and common themes on finding your calling, realizing your right livelihood, and building a career based on your talents and passions.  Here is the basic underlying message I concluded:

To create the life you want, you have to get clear on what that is. 

There is a story I often share to illustrate this:  You are in a restaurant looking over the menu.  The waiter appears and you say:  “I’ll have a soda, French fries and a cheeseburger”.  As he turns to head to the kitchen (or computer terminal these days) you call him back: “on second thought, I shouldn’t have the fries, so give me a small salad instead.”  Again, he turns and starts towards the kitchen.  You call him back saying: “you know I really don’t need the cheese, just give me a plain burger.”  The point of this story is that the cook in the kitchen can’t make your order until you can decide what you really want.  Think of the cook as “the universe, the divine, God or the source”.  It cannot bring you what you want in your life if you can’t place the order. 

If you look back on your life, consider:  have you started down one path or another only to change direction over and over?  It could be that you are simply seeking to live a life in alignment with your passion and purpose and haven’t quite arrived there yet.  Through trial and error, you may see you are steadily moving in a direction, you just don’t know where you are going yet.  If you keep returning to your core values, your passions, and stay in alignment with those through your thoughts, decisions, actions and goals, your purpose eventually reveals itself. 

You may be saying “that’s all well and good but I am just not finding my own purpose.  In fact, I am more confused than ever of how to find my best career direction, much less my life’s purpose.”  Let’s look at how the mind works for a moment.  Our thoughts are like monkeys jumping from branch to branch looking for a better banana.  Additionally, our entire physical system is driven by the instinct to avoid pain and seek pleasure.  When new information comes in, the brain goes into an alert state.  The amygdala is saying; “wake up, something’s happening, is it SAFE or is it DANGEROUS”?  When you are endeavoring to change your mind and change your life this causes some upheaval.  There are “bumps in the road”.  The old patterns you’ve set up in your brain tissue want to keep running and here you are, forging new links.  This process can result in feelings of confusion, you might feel unlike yourself.  Change can shake things up! 

By bringing your focus back to your passions, back to your pure intention to live your life in alignment with your core values, the path becomes easier.  For myself, I have found a regular meditation practice to be helpful in slowing down the sheer number of thoughts that zip through our brains (did you know scientists now say we have as many as 80,000 thoughts a day?).  When we stop “following the monkeys from branch to branch”,  we may hear our small inner voice, our intuition, our higher Self prompting us and nudging us to move toward that alignment of passion and purpose. 

Here are some of the books I recommend to help you find that dream job, your purpose, your passions…

The Passion Test: The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose, Janet and Chris Atwood

Build Your Dreams: How To Make a Living Doing What You Love, Alexis Irvin and Chip Hiden

Inspired & Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work!, Tama Kieves

I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It, Barbara Sher

Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design, Lawrence Boldt

“We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.”   Joseph Campbell

How Rob Got His Dream Job

Rob and family

Rob and family

I had the great privilege of having a client come back and visit me while he was on a vacation in Madison. He wanted to share his joy of a new baby and his appreciation for the role I played in helping both he and his wife land wonderful jobs in St. Louis.

Rob was working as an organizer for a labor union when we met.  He really enjoyed his role in educating union leadership, researching and writing content for the website, building and managing social media, and creating training and marketing materials.  What he didn’t like so much, was the constant travel and long hours.  

In 2011, Rob’s position required his involvement in demonstrations regarding the governor’s; “Budget Repair Bill”, which impacted collective bargaining agreements.  After 5 months of being embroiled in the protests, Rob was ready for a change of pace.  He has a high value for harmony and strives to build community and collaboration wherever he goes. Spending Feb-June with crowds of frustrated angry people was both exhausting and disheartening for him.  He decided it was time to update his resume and begin looking for a new job, preferably in St. Louis, Missouri.       

He attended both of my mini-courses; “Rock Your Resume” and “Ignite Your Interview” and had hired me to help him find a new position.  We went through the process of identifying what work tasks he did best and enjoyed most and emphasized those on his resume, his Linked In profile and in his correspondence with potential employers.  Next, I asked Rob to write out what his dream job would be. 

Rob’s ideal work needed to offer:   innovation, autonomy, collaboration, research, writing, teaching/training, advocating and community building.  One of the things we worked on was structuring questions he could ask in interviews to help him learn more about the work culture and management style to determine if the jobs he was applying for might be a fit to his “ideal work”.  It took a few months of networking and using Linked In contacts, conducting informational interviews and searching job listings in all the higher ed. institutions in the St. Louis area, but Rob found a great job as did his wife!  

 This month he is celebrating two years being in a job he loves in one of Missouri’s prestigious universities. His work not only combines his education and experience, but it is in alignment with his core values and fits his lifestyle, enabling him to spend more time with his growing family.  Rob’s wife, Laura, also attended the Rock your Resume class and was the first one to obtain work in the St. Louis area.  She is very happy in her job in higher education and will soon be starting classes towards a masters degree.

If you are unhappy in the work you’re in, consider a change.  It is possible to have fulfilling, satisfying, purposeful work!  Whether you do it with a coach, a book, or a friend, please explore your possibilities for a brighter, more fulfilling work life!  

 —Dee

Why We Fail to Find Our Life’s Work

Listen to your inner voice

Listen to your inner voice

I had a birthday this week and got to thinking about how quickly the years go by.  It saddens me how many people slog though endless days working at jobs they don’t like.  What stops them from leaving an employer or an occupation they don’t find satisfying?  Why do they grit their teeth and continue to go to a job that drains their energy and robs them of precious hours they could be using in pursuit of more joyous work? 

I’ve been re-visiting some to the books in my career coaching collection and in How to Find the Work You Love I discovered something I thought important to share.  The author, Laurence Boldt suggests that what stops us from pursuing a calling or finding our “life’s work” are the “Voices of Doubt”.  Here is how he defines these inner voices.

The voice of doom and gloom – You might identify this for yourself when your mind starts up about fears of financial ruin.  (Are you really going to become a bag lady if you quit your job?).  Is it really riskier to ignore your creative urges and stay in work that pays the bills but sucks your precious life force?  As George Bernard Shaw put it; “If you are going to let the fear of poverty govern your life…your reward will be that you will earn, but you will not live.”  I think sometimes we just have to feel the fear and move forward anyway!  You never know what opportunities may come your way once you start moving towards your ideal career.

The voice of conformity – Evidence of this voice occurs when you start worrying about others’ opinions of you.  For example, when I decided to launch my home based business 10 years ago, I got some negative response from people.  “You’ll never be successful, don’t you know most small businesses fail in the first couple of years?”  “You have no business in being in business! You don’t understand the principles.”  ”Go get a steady job and get a regular paycheck like everybody else.” If I had succumbed to those opinions I would have missed out on years of fulfilling, heart engaging, and energizing work!  Just reading these old “voices of conformity” brings my energy down! Don’t let the naysayers undermine your intentions to follow your heart!  Trust your inner wisdom and go blaze a new trail.  You don’t have to do a certain job, you can choose differently.

The voice of self diminishment – This one is insidious and can derail your best intentions.  These are the messages we tell ourselves about not being _______ enough.  (You fill in the blank).  Don’t put off following your passions because you think you have to get more; training, practice, organized, money or whatever you feel is missing.  This doesn’t mean that you don’t do any preparation to realize your life’s work, it does mean you stop trying to talk yourself out of it because you are feeling inadequate.   Do some research and find out the truth.  For instance; do you really have to have a degree in business to start one?  (No you don’t)

The voice of idle complaint – Another name for this voice could be;  the whine and procrastinate process.  We all know people who seem to enjoy complaining.  You know the ones that love to share how awful their work/life/relations/situation/whatever is.  Please don’t do that to yourself!  Evidence of the voice of idle complaint appears when we procrastinate.  When we turn a deaf ear to the voice of our inner wisdom and come up with excuses to ignore it. For example you might say to yourself or others; I will make a career change when “I have enough money, my husband/wife finishes school, when my kids go off to college, when I get fired or laid off, when XYZ occurs.”  We wait for some external circumstances to change in order for us to take action to create our own future.  Write down a few actions you can realistically take towards making your dreams for fulfilling work come true and then do them!  

I am not suggesting anyone act irresponsibly and just assume if you leap off a cliff your wings will appear, but I am encouraging you to really examine your reasons for staying in a job or work situation in which you are truly unhappy. 

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by the dogma -  which is living the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of others opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and own intuition.  They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”  —Steve Jobs

Steve got it right.  He certainly blazed a trail and changed the world.  You can to!

Identify Your Skills and Talents and Find Your Ideal Career

glass squareAre you thinking it is time to get a different job or shift careers?  The first step is to identify your package of skills, talents, and natural abilities.  We all have abilities, life experience, knowledge, talents, passions, creativity, yearnings, interests, and skills within.  I imagine them as being different shapes, sizes, and colors–kind of like this picture I took of Dale Chihuly glass.

I find clients often assume that they are “stuck” in the same type job because that is all they have done in the past.  If we look beyond the job description and instead look within ourselves, we can discover a wellspring of transferable skills and hidden talents that can help qualify us for a variety of potentially satisfying jobs.  Let me give you an example:

Scott had been a master electrician for 15 years.  He climbed up ladders and crawled through ducts while wiring commercial buildings.  At 35, he was finding the physical demands becoming challenging and decided to explore a career change.  When I asked him what he liked best about being an electrician, he responded; “it is really satisfying to wire an entire system and then bring a building to life with the flip of a switch.” We began exploring how this could relate to other kinds of careers.  You see, if you start with what you really most enjoy about your work and look at where you can do something similar in a different environment, some times the ideal career reveals itself.  

After identifying his transferable skills and natural gifts, Scott decided to become a chiropractor.  He compared the work of being a chiropractor to his career as an electrician. In both cases he said; “you are working with the electrical system.  In the human body it is the nervous system but my role is the same.  Determine where the electricity is failing to connect and fix it.”  He went on further to say; “instead of working in a building with ducts and blowers to move the air and maintain the temperature and electrical wiring to circulate the juice, I work on the human body — it too has respiratory, circulatory and electrical systems.”

Today Scott has a thriving practice in Landrum, SC and says he just loves his work!  (He’s good at it too.  I often see him when I am visiting there.)

You never know what new wonderful career may be just around the corner.  Identifying your own skills and talents is the first step in exploring other kinds of work.   Need a nudge to start looking at your own?  Here is a list of Transferable Skills for you to select from.  After you identify the skills you possess, review the list and note those that you really enjoy doing.  Then mention those in correspondence with potential employers, emphasize them on your resume, describe them in interviews or launch a business built on them!  

YOU have a unique package of skills, talents and abilities.  Why not use them and live the work you love!

 

 

 

How to Have More Mindful Moments

Mindful blogLast week I facilitated two workshops on mindfulness for employees of John Deere Financial.  I was struck by how earnestly engaged the participants were in the process.  It was like they were hungry to explore mindfulness.  What a gift it is to give ourselves “time out”, to allow our busy brains to re-focus on the present moment as we did during those workshops.

For the most part, we move through our days on autopilot.  Scientists tell us that the average human brain thinks 70,000 thoughts a day.  Now if those were all empowering positive thoughts, imagine how different our lives might be.  

Unfortunately, we humans tend to ruminate on the past and imagine and plan for the future. We also tend to get in loops of repeating memories or patterns of thinking. Consider the times you have re-played a situation in your head and thought about what you could have, should have, or would have done differently if given a chance to “do it over.” The nice thing about using mindfulness techniques, is that every time you awake to the present moment, you have the opportunity to consciously choose how to move forward to the next one.

When you consider career paths, choosing wisely can make all the difference in whether you experience a job that is boring or stressful vs having work that is interesting and enjoyable.   The more consciously aware we are, the more control we have over the course of our lives.  Instead of being at the mercy of our mental default programs, we can start to wake-up to each moment, each choice point.  So how do we become more “mindful”? Here are some exercises you might try:

1.  Watch the mind move in time.  Take a piece of paper and draw a horizontal line.  At one end is the future at the other, the past.  In the center of the line make a circle and write in the word NOW.  Start with your finger on the circle and simply observe your thoughts for 5 minutes.  Every time you realize you are thinking about the future, move your finger on the scale.  Do the same thing when you realize you are thinking about the past.  Don’t try to stop the thoughts, just observe how your mind wanders in time.

2.  Focus your senses.  Pick up an object you find interesting and study it for 5 minutes.  Really look at it, touch it, observe every detail of color, weight,  shape, even whether or not it has an odor.  This is one method to bring you into the present moment.  It offers the additional benefit of increasing your power of sensory perception.

3.  Set wake up calls.  When I was in grad school, I was also a student in The Fourth Way work which was based on the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff.  One of the most interesting homework assignments we were given was called the doorway exercise.   Every time you pass through a doorway say to yourself “I am here now”.  When you realize you have sailed through a doorway without remembering your statement (in essence being on autopilot or asleep at the switch), go back through the doorway and say it.  While it may not be practical to actually go back through every doorway, for instance exiting an airplane, it is remarkable to see how often we are unaware.  

All these moments of mindfulness add up.  You start to realize how much of life you’ve missed because you have been riding around on your own thought train.   Increase your mindful moments and your life begins to change in some interesting ways.  Who knows?  That dream career, that ideal life, may be just around the corner…

 

Ages and Stages in Your Career Life

I had the good fortune to be interviewed recently by Teresa Bryan Peneguy, an editor with the Wisconsin State Journal.  The subsequent article “Ages, stages are factors in education, career” was published in the newspaper on 12.10.12.  It was at the back of the Sports section under the heading “Education for Life” and I thought it might be helpful to share it with you.  Here it is in full:

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women are merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.”  –William Shakespeare  

The average American now works close to 50 years.  That’s a heck of a long time to do something you detest.  Luckily, you don’t have to.  Even in today’s economy and job market, you don’t have to feel trapped at a job that makes you want to run screaming for the exit.  Nor do you have to feel hopeless if your career is threatened by changes in technology and society.

Whatever stage of life you’re in – whether you’re new to the workforce or a seasoned worker – you have options in education and occupation.  ”You just have to find out what you really want to do, know what your talents and gifts are, and figure out who needs what you have to offer,” says Madison-based career life coach Dee Relyea.

Your 20s

Although some people are questioning whether or not college still offers a good ROI, labor force data still reveals that the college educated do earn more than their peers without degrees, and the higher the education attained, the higher one’s earnings over a lifetime.  The times of spending seven years in college for a degree in Medieval Literature may be gone, but college is still a smart choice as long as one’s chosen career path requires a college degree.

An awesome thing about being in your 20′s is that you may have great flexibility at this stage of life.  Relyea talks about Sally, who attended college in Minnesota and earned a liberal arts degree.  After she returned to her home state of WI, she went to work in an off, “which didn’t suit her,” said Relyea.

Because she had a roommate, which lowered her living expenses, she had some wiggle-room in terms of her salary needs.  So she worked part time in retail and part time providing marketing for a martial arts school.  ”She began trying on different workplaces,” says Relyea.  ”She discovered she really liked social media, and since she had no need for a steady paycheck, she decided to do that (and be a freelance writer) full-time.”  Since all of her work was done via computer, she was able to live anywhere – so she moved to Denver.  It was the perfect scenario for Sally.

Your 30s

Another client of Relyea’s; Bob, got a computer science degree, went to work at Epic, where he had “no trouble getting his foot through the door.”  He loved his job, until his position changed and he was required to travel frequently.  This was a problem because he had dogs, “and he was miserable with the travel aspect of his job.”  Bob realized that his favorite thing was teaching computer skills to other people, so he stared a home business doing that.  He needed to earn a little more, so he picked up a part time job at the Apple store.  (Addendum to this story from Dee: ”which evolved into a full time career and where, incidentally, he met the love of his life and is not only fully engaged in his work, he is engaged to be married!”  The universe works in wondrous ways…)

Your 40s

Betsy had a high-end marketing job at a Fortune 500 company.  As technology advanced and Betsy was required to carry a smart phone, “she found she had no respite from the office whatsoever,” says Relyea.  Betsy was a single mom with two adolescents, and she was working 70 hours a week.  Then she heard the company was going to be bought out.  ”She came to me to create an exit strategy,” says Relyea.

Betsy completed a career assessment (the MBTI) which revealed her natural personality preferences and transferable skills.  She discovered she wanted to teach.  She had a master’s degree in marketing, but she needed to go back to school for a teaching degree.  When she was laid off, she got a severance package – which gave her the time (and the money) to get the education she needed.  ”She was prepared and thrilled when she got that pink slip,” says Relyea.  Today, Betsy is a high school teacher and loves what she does.

Your 50s and 60s

In middle age, many people find themselves discontented with unfulfilling jobs.  ”They want to do something they are passionate about,” says Relyea.  ”Sometimes they have been downsized, and (sometimes) they want to respond to an inner calling.” 

You have a right to enjoy what you do for a living, says Relyea. “It’s really not a luxury,” she says.  ”We don’t have much time on this earth.  You shouldn’t have to do something you don’t like.”  Often, people in this age range have “golden handcuffs” – they’re held hostage by a big house or a fancy car or expensive recreation.  ”But you can choose to downsize your standard of living,” she says.  ”People have successfully done that to find more fulfilling work.  A lot of people in their 50s freelance or consult, and work part-time in retail (or whatever) to make ends meet.  Multiple streams of income are the way to go.”

Relyea has answers for any questions you may ask.  For example, what if you want to start a home business but you need health insurance?  ”You do have options,” she says.  ”If you have a spouse, you may get it through them.  Umbrella group policies are available:  the Chamber of Commerce may offer insurance as do almost all professional associations.  You might be able to get COBRA to tide you over until insurance is easier to purchase through the Affordable Care Act.  You can find a way to do what you have to do.”

The bottom line is that you do have choices.  There are many paths available: just decide which one you want to take.  ”I’ve seen some people achieve some amazing things,” says Relyea.  

I’d love to hear stories of your career experiences.  Please comment below.    –Dee

 

Merging Work and Play

I love the sense of playfulness the artist captured in the movement and sheer delight of the two children in this picture.   I took this shot while waiting for my plane in the Greenville-Spartenburg airport in SC.  It is a reminder to have fun, to find time to play in our lives, and to experience light hearted moments.   I am heading there again this week and remembered this photo.  I got to thinking that the average person spends an inordinate amount of time at work and not enough time in play.

The traditional American work ethic is to indulge in leisure pursuits or “play” only when our work is done.  There is a common belief that work requires self discipline, long hours, and sacrifices.  As a career coach I often ask people what the word “work” means to them.  I get answers like; “boring, drudgery, wage slave, too many hours, frustrating, exhausting, routine, hard, meaningless, etc.”   I remember asking my daughter as a new college grad what came to mind when she hears people talking about getting a job and going to work.  She thought for a moment and then said:  ”I see a sweaty bald guy in overalls dragging a ball and chain in a warehouse with a concrete floor and small windows and it’s raining outside and the water is dripping on the floor.”  I wonder how many other people have such dour imagery around the concept of work!  (FYI my daughter is an entrepreneur at heart and is enjoying being a freelance writer and social media consultant in Denver as I write this)

We are taught that we must strive for success and be our best, and work hard to get ahead.  Well meaning parents  teachers, and  other authority figures tell us to “keep your nose to the grindstone” and “pay your dues” and “climb the ladder to success.”  This doesn’t sound like much fun to me.  Does this advice motivate you to go out there and get a job?  Surely there is a way to make a living and be happy at the same time, a way to merge work and play.

What if we shift our perspective and start bringing a sense of  playfulness into our jobs?  Wouldn’t our workday be more pleasurable?  Absolutely!  Let’s look at the concept of play.  As in this photo, the children appear to be alive in the moment, are having fun and seem to be exhilarated.  (Considering they are sculptures that’s kudos to the artist.) How can we bring this joy, this sense of fun and being present into our daily work lives?  A good place to start is by looking at your situation with “new eyes”.  Here are some questions to consider:

  • Does your work environment support you or deplete you?  
  • Are you doing work you enjoy and find satisfying?  
  • Do you feel valued and appreciated at work by peers and management?
  • If freedom and flexibility are important values for you does your current work provide these?

Think of play as an activity in which you are fully present, enjoying the moment, feeling free, valued and appreciated by the other players.  Whether you work for somebody else or are self employed there are ways to bring more playfulness into your life.  For starters, if your work environment doesn’t support you, change it.  This is easier to do if you are the boss but even as am employee there are often options to personalize your work situation.  Would you be more comfortable (and potentially more productive) with an ergonomic chair or an office with a window?  How about suggesting flex time or job sharing to balance your work and leisure time? 

What are you passionate about?  Can you create a livelihood doing things you are passionate about?  (See The $100 Startup for guidance on this.) Is there a way to bring passion into your work?  If you work with a team, do you mutually appreciate and value the other “players”?  What might you do to contribute to the well being of co-workers?   What needs to happen in order for you to have more fun at work, to feel energized and yes, playful?  Sometimes it is as simple as shifting your perspective and changing your attitude.

“Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.”  Mark Twain

 

 

 

 

 

Let Your Passion Fuel Your Work

purple orchids

When you enjoy the nature of your work, your potential for true career fulfillment skyrockets., positioning you for greater success.   In reality, many people are not in “work they love” but in jobs that they need simply to pay the bills. They diligently move through their work week doing what needs to be done to meet the required performance standard.  You know the scenario: hanging onto a job even when you are burned out or yearn to be spending your precious hours focused in another direction.  You slog through your days and gaze eagerly at your weekends so that you can do the stuff you are passionate about.   

The question is, do you even have enough energy at the end of your day, your week, your long stint without a vacation to really enjoy your time off when you have it?  Can you keep working the “day job” week after week, month after month, year after year without something else in your life to energize you?  Probably not.  

One of the recommendations I make to my clients is to identify what they are passionate about and then find a way to spend time on that passion.  To clarify what you are passionate about, try to remember the last time you were really engaged in an activity that brought you joy, made you feel  exhilarated, excited, or energized. The things that bring us to that place of feeling more alive or more in tune with our joy are our passions. They feed us, and give us energy, rather than sapping it away. We all have things we have to do in life that sap energy, so we must balance them with things that create more energy for us.  

One of my clients shared that she just didn’t have enough juice at the end of the day to do anything but go home, eat something and either zone into the TV or go to bed.  Susan is only 24 years old, way too young to be feeling that way at the end of the day.  I asked her to think about the last time she felt really energized in her life.  She told me it was when she was acting in community theater three years ago.  Had she tried out for any parts since?  No, she was too exhausted from working which is why she came to see me in the first place.  She figured she needed a new job.  

Sometimes it is not the job, it is the lack of balance in our life.  Susan needed to get in touch with her passion again.  She needed to “feed the muse” inside, to get that fire going in her belly again, to be excited and enthused about something in her life.  It was quite evident that just talking about her experience in the theater raised her energy level.  I swear her eyes sparkled and she became more animated as she talked.   

She left our session with a spring in her step and a promise to start looking for play auditions.  Within a few weeks, not only had she identified a play she was interested in, she tried out and was cast in the lead role!  Even though the rehearsals required a two hour commute four days a week after work for months, Susan persevered.  The very act of engaging in her passion fueled her through her work week.  I had the great joy of attending her play a few weeks ago and seeing her alight with joy as she masterfully applied her craft.   

The play is now over but Susan is fired up to find more opportunities to act.  It doesn’t need to be how she earns her living, but it needs to be in her life. She does administrative work and thought it was at odds with her passion.  Now she is looking at administrative positions within the arts, media, and entertainment communities.  Who knows, she may find an admin position with a theater company and have an opportunity to expand her role.  

What energizes you?  Identify it and do it!  Who knows, a new career direction may evolve from your participation in YOUR passion! 

If you want some help with this see “4 Ways to Discover Your Passions”.