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!

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…

 

Passion at Work

Pattiy Torno

Pattiy Torno

What would it be like to be excited to “go to work” on a regular basis, to be brimming with creativity and inspiration, to be energized by your own efforts?  I have often asked that question in an effort to find answers to share.  Do you know someone who says they absolutely love their work?  Have you ever heard someone say; “I enjoy this so much I can hardly believe I get paid to do it”?  Who are these people and what do they do?  I found some shining examples during a recent visit to the Carolinas.

I spent an afternoon wandering the River Arts District in Asheville, NC a couple of months ago. “This unique neighborhood along the French Broad River is home to more than 165 artists with working studios located in 18 turn-of-the-century industrial buildings”.  I loved that people are welcome to wander in and talk with the artists, and if you’re lucky, observe them at their craft.  What really struck me was the unbridled enthusiasm of the artists I spoke with. Their passion for their work was a tangible living thing exuding from each studio I visited.  No one tried to sell me anything either.  I loved that!

Take Jonas Gerard for example.  Born in Casablanca, Morocco in 1941, he migrated to NYC and began showing his art on the streets at the age of 16.  Although he spent years working in the engineering field, his passion for his art eventually lead him to pursue it full time.  Largely self taught, he is best known for his abstract art.  He describes the essence of it as:

  • To unfold the spirit of self-exploration by painting (or creating) freely without restraint or self criticism
  • To develop a deeper trust in one’s intuition and instinct as they happen
  • To realize that letting go of set goals opens up a whole world of infinite possibilities

I think these are terrific goals for anyone seeking fulfillment in their work, don’t you agree?

William B.Leonard of Bold Life said; “it would be hard, maybe even impossible to find anyone who is more passionate and energetic about his work than Jonas Gerard.  He is an artist with the heart of a showman and he happily welcomes visitors into his studio to watch him work.  As he paints, he dances in front of the canvas to music that blares raucously from his cd player” and talks while painting saying that he has no idea where the music and paint will take him.”

Another studio I visited was Pattiy Torno’s.  When she was in high school she decided to head towards fashion design as a career.  She says on her webpage, “It was the only career I could think of that would allow me to earn a living doing what I love most—sewing.”  She apprenticed in the fashion industry in New York and then started her own business in the 1980’s as she wanted to get back to “the simple joy of playing with fabric.”  She began making quilts.  (See her picture above with a thimble on her finger and quilt behind her.) 

As I sat in her studio drinking herbal tea that chilly afternoon, I was struck by how much she truly loves what she does.  Pattiy shared her work and encouraged me to touch and try on her creations.  I walked out with one of her lovely fleece hats on my head. Whenever I wear it, I think of the joy of the artist who made it and it makes me feel good (it’s nice and warm too!).

Do you have passion at work?  If you are shaking your head, NO, you might re-consider if you feel or express any of the following:

Empowered, energized, excited, unstoppable, joy, entertaining, creative, evocative, motivated, a sense of flow, giving to others, or sharing your talents.

And, if none of those words apply, you might rethink your career path…. Life is too short to spend more than half your waking hours in passionless work.

 

Infinite Possibilities for Creating Change

field of infinite possibilities

field of infinite possibilities…

Are you yearning to make some real changes this year?  I’m not talking about making a list of resolutions, I’m talking about creating realistic action steps.  Does thinking about making changes in your life overwhelm you?  Is it something you tried to do in the past and failed at?  Maybe you are simply tackling too much at once. Try one small step at a time.

Start with an idea or a vision of what you want to bring into your life. What would it look like if you made some changes?  Can you picture your surroundings?  Let’s say for example, you want to experience more peace, feel calm in stressful situations, or just plain be relaxed more of the time.  What kind of environment are you spending time in? Are there changes you can make to promote a sense of calm?  Here’s an example of what I mean: 

I remember answering incoming calls in a tiny office space/storage room with no windows.  One day instead of lunch, I headed to a poster shop to find visions of serenity.  I came back with 3 beautiful photos of ocean scenes. You know, white beaches palm trees, unlimited horizons to gaze at – kind of like the Corona beer commercials. That one small improvement in my work space enabled me to “breathe” easier and put a smile into my voice in responding to callers.  It was a quick and inexpensive action step toward changing my environment for the better and resulted in my feeling more relaxed and optimistic in my job. That one small action step created immediate change for me!

What do you want to change?  Do you want to have more joy, peace, love, achievement, success, health, or wealth? Whatever it is that you want to bring into your life,  I challenge you to take a least one action step in the next 30 days to help it to happen!  (and I’d love to hear about it!)                        –Dee

Manage Holiday Stress, Bring Joy

De-stressing the season

De-stressing the season

I was pleased to be asked to present three workshops on Managing Holiday Stress for a local company recently and thought I’d share some of the tips from that presentation with you.  

Prevent Overwhelm

If you are at all like me, you want to prepare and orchestrate the warmest, nicest holiday experience you can.  This can lead to unrealistic expectations for your own “performance”.  Trying to have the “Hallmark” holiday with all the decorations just so, homemade food, beautifully wrapped gifts, and a perfectly clean house for guests can put tremendous stress on you. Prioritize your tasks and be realistic about your energy levels.  (ha ha, I have company arriving tomorrow and have given up the need to scrub the grout..)

1.  Ask for help, don’t assume others will volunteer.  For instance, with guests, be aware that they likely have different traditions around holidays.  For instance,  their family stays out of the kitchen when mom or the designated chef is at work, so it wouldn’t occur to them to offer to help you cook.  You don’t want to become a martyr (or be perceived as one) by doing it all and then begin to resent having company, or doing the tasks you’ve taken on.  

2.  Be flexible, weather, travel conditions, emergencies etc. may come up and dash your plans.  Instead of getting stressed over it, consider having a backup plan.  No plan?  Then just do your best to go with the flow rather than trying to make things turn out a certain way.  

3.  Hold your boundaries, allow yourself to just say “NO”.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t take on more obligations.   What can you let go of to give yourself more time and energy?  (Note to self: I give myself permission to skip hand writing notes in holiday cards this year.  I am not staying up half the night this year to get cards in the mail in time.)

4.  Let go of outmoded “traditions”.  Does your family have holiday traditions that may no longer be relevant but you continue them anyway? I love the story about the gathered generations of women preparing a holiday ham. One cuts both ends of the ham before placing it in the roasting pan.  The youngest says “Mom, why did you cut off both ends of the ham?”  She answers, “because that is the way your grandmother always prepares it.”  The little girl then went to her grandmother and asked the same question. Her grandmother’s response; “I had to because my pan was too small”.  (In my example, it was a big deal to make loads of holiday treats, participate in cookie exchanges, and engage my kids in the process.  Now, as a gluten free empty-nester,  it doesn’t make sense to do all that baking.)

Create Peace and Joy

1.  Do something for others.  Consider being a bell ringer for a couple of hours or volunteer to distribute food or toys for a non-profit. Put your personal holiday stress in perspective by helping those less fortunate.

2.  Take care of yourself.  If you have an exercise routine, keep it up.  Nothing releases stress in the body better than exercise. Watch what you eat and drink and try not to overindulge.  If you need a break from people, take it.  (One workshop participant who was hosting extended family in her home, said she retreated to her closet  a couple of times a day for a 15 minute meditation break.)

3.  Have fun experiences.  Play board games, go for walks, drive around and see holiday lights, do some interactive activities with others.  If there are children around, engage with them.  Nothing brings joy like a little person’s laughter. 

4.  Don’t take yourself or your opinions too seriously.  Allow other people to “be right”.  Avoid confrontations with others.  The old adage “count to 10 before you respond” is still good advice.  I find it beneficial to take 3 or 4 deep slow breaths when tensions arise.  It relaxes the body, forces more oxygen to your brain, and enables you to make a more conscious choice in responding in challenging conversations or situations.

Wishing you all the peace, love,  joy and wonder of the season    —Dee