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

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!




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”.

Work: Labor or Love?

Labor or Love?

Work, is it a labor of love?

Today is Labor Day in America.  It became a national holiday in 1894 when President Grover Cleveland reconciled with the labor movement following the deaths of workers during the Pullman Strike.  Fearing further conflict, the bill was rushed through Congress a mere 6 days after the strike.  Much has changed in the workplace since then.  Now we largely look at Labor Day as the last weekend of summer and the kickoff of the football season, a day off for fun and relaxation. 

If we view this occasion as it was originally conceived, it is a day to appreciate those in the workforce and celebrate employment. I ask you; do you feel celebratory at work?  Are you fully engaged and joyfully expressing your talents and skills?  Do you really like your job? Are you appreciated and rewarded for your contributions?  Do you feel energized by the work you do?  Sadly, I don’t think the majority of workers would answer yes to these questions. 

When my daughter graduated college, she had a hard time being motivated to get that first job.  I asked her what came to mind when I said the word:  work.  She thought a minute and then said; “I get a picture of a sweaty bald guy in a warehouse pulling a huge chain.”  My internal response was “yikes, she views work as drudgery!”  Sadly, I think many people view work from this perspective. (Happily, my daughter now loves her work as a blogger, freelance writer and social media consultant in Denver).

For many people, a job is tied to the idea of being in servitude to get a paycheck.  I’ve had coaching clients tell me they are miserable in their jobs but are locked into the “golden handcuffs”.  They feel they cannot leave their jobs for fear of losing health insurance and other benefits.  I ask them, “If you really can’t leave your work, can you find a way to be more satisfied with it?”

What would happen if you shifted your perception and viewed work as a creative expression of yourself?  How might you bring your natural talents and skills into your work life?  Can you see how your work could then become a “labor of love”?  I believe that each and every one of us can find or create work that is inherently fulfilling.  If you are currently in a job, consider how you can experience it with more joy.  Ask yourself:   

  • What is one thing I can do this week to find more pleasure and satisfaction at work?
  • How can I make the best contribution to my workplace, my co-workers, or my employer?
  • What can I change in my daily routine to make my job more interesting?   

If you are looking at career options, consider these questions:   

  • What am I passionate about?  How might I express my passion through my work?
  • Is my work an expression of me?  Is the work I do in alignment with my value system? 
  • What kind of work would energize me?
  • Who could utilize my natural talents, skills, education, etc.?  Where is there a need I can fill?   

If you can’t find a way to “love the work you’re with” it’s time to look elsewhere. You might consider creative self employment, starting a small business or a combination in income producing endeavors.  Remember you don’t have to do a particular kind or work, you have choice!

“Follow the path of your potential and live the work you love”  –Dee


Dream Careers are Like Butterflies

Butterfly on Yellow FlowerIn our culture, the mass media bombards us with the idea that there is a “dream career” or a “perfect job” out there for everyone. I believe this is true, but for many of us finding that ideal work situation can be like trying to catch a butterfly – it always seems to be just beyond our reach.

You may spend years in school studying to become a ___________ (you fill in the blank) only to enter that career and discover it’s not what you really want – or worse – that you just aren’t good at it.

Some folks chase the money and plan their career trajectory based on what work yields the highest paycheck, but even if they end up making the big bucks, most don’t report feeling they have the “work of their dreams.”

So the question is, how do we discover what the perfect career for each of us is?

The keys to determining what might be fulfilling work  for you are pretty simple:

1.     Identify what work tasks you both enjoy and do well

2.     Identify work tasks that you don’t like BUT do well

3.     Identify work tasks you enjoy BUT don’t do well

4.     Identify work tasks that you both dislike and don’t do well

Here is a video explaining this further:

The challenge is that most people get stuck in jobs where they have several tasks that they do well, but don’t really enjoy. In order for us to be fulfilled at work, we need to be engaged doing things that we both are good at and therefore can be successful doing, but that also connect us to our passions and have an intrinsic value to us. This is what makes work truly fulfilling. By identifying the things above, you are taking the first step toward determining what the best work for you may be.

Bottom line:  you’ll never find that dream job without first determining what you’re naturally talented at and enjoy doing.  You must to be willing to take some risks in following your heart’s desire for doing work you’ll really enjoy.  You may need to take a less than perfect job to make ends meet while you return to school to increase your knowledge or get training to learn new skills.  You may experience criticism from friends, family and colleagues if you decide to “leave the mainstream” and significantly change your career path.  You are the only one who truly knows what that great work will be and it won’t be found in a job description written by someone else.

If you’d like some support and resources to begin this process, check out the exercises and inventories in my free “Discover Your Calling” e-course.  Sign up on the top right of this page.

4 Ways to Discover Your Passions

Passions excite us, enliven our being and reflect our heart’s desire.  Do you know what you are really passionate about?  Are your passions able to be expressed through the work you do?  How do we identify our passions?   For some, their passion is ingrained in their being from birth.  They just know what they want to be when they “grow up” and find a way to live their life around what they are passionate about.

1. Discovering your passion through just “knowing” from birth

Heart shaped leaves

discover your passions

My Dad for instance, was fascinated with flying and spent his life in aviation, first as a Navy pilot then as an aeronautical engineer with NASA. When he retired he continued following his passion of flight and built an airplane in his garage.  It took him 7 years to plan and then build the plane and then another year to get healthy enough to fly it.  He was in his late 70’s by then and had to have cataract surgeries on both eyes before he was allowed to pilot his beloved little plane.  He really lived his life around his passion!

2. Discovering your passion through an epiphany

Sometimes life hands you the insight in an epiphany.  I’ve heard many clients report a crisis of sorts prompted a sudden realization of what they wanted to do with their life.  I call this the “wake-up call”. It may be precipitated by a dramatic life event such as a losing a job, going through a divorce or experiencing a serious illness or injury.  For me, it was facing being downsized from my job as a recruiter in a staffing agency.  It was literally like a switch was flipped in my brain and I made the mental leap from “guess I’ll need to go look for another job” to “what if instead of looking for candidates to fill companies staffing needs, I championed  individuals and helped them find satisfying work that really fits their needs?”  (read more on my story on the About page)

3. Discovering your passion through trial and error

The third way to uncover our passion is by trial and error.  I think most people do this to some extent.  We take classes we have some interest in and explore various careers.  The process of trying out a variety of work situations can lead us to realizing what we do and do not find rewarding. We may stumble into a great job or end up in a fulfilling occupation simply by circumstance and the process of elimination. My daughter for instance, studied a variety of subjects in college and ended up with a degree in cultural studies and comparative literature.  Not exactly a fast track to a solid career. Over the next 5 years she worked in office administration, retail sales, taught karate, became a licensed massage therapist, was a tour guide and concluded that what she was really passionate about was being creatively self employed, helping people tell their stories and throwing theme parties.  She now lives in Denver and happily juggles multiple income streams as a freelance writer, editor, social media consultant and wedding planner. You don’t have to pick just one occupation or career.  Keep experimenting until you find work that makes your heart sing!

4. Discovering your passion through introspection

When we respond to a yearning to have creative self expression, to do work that is in alignment with our core values and beliefs we have begun the process of looking inward.  Conventional wisdom teaches us to go to school, get a good job, work hard, and save enough money to someday retire. However practical this path seems to be, there may come a point in which our heart overrules our head and the sensible path is no longer enough for us. We start to question the status quo, we become restless, anxious, stressed or depressed. We began to really want to be able to express our passions, to work enlivened, to be intrinsically in alignment with our deepest yearnings.  Responding to this call of the heart can be life changing.

Tama Kieves in her book, This Time I Dance poignantly describes her experience of leaving her law practice in order to do pursue her love of writing.  She talks about searching for answers by reading self help books like she was “in a library on fire” and by challenging her own beliefs about the work she was “supposed to do.”  Today she is a successful author, speaker, and workshop presenter who inspires others to live their creative dreams.

Who knows what you might become, what inspiring work you may do?   If you’re in the looking inward process seeking to identify your passions and discover your natural talents, one of my earlier posts may be helpful: “12 Questions to Help you Find Your Calling

“My heart guides me tenderly and truly.  I find ways through the wilderness.  My heart finds paths through the desert.”  –Julia Cameron

To find your passion, listen to the wisdom of your heart,


The Key to Fulfilling Work – Look Inward

Are you scouring want ads, searching internet job sites, and checking out staffing agency listings in hopes of finding your next great career move? The truth is there aren’t so many employers looking to hire these days and the job market remains quite competitive. Maybe what you are looking for isn’t “out there”. There really isn’t a job description that says “this is your ultimate perfect work come apply now”. The thing is, we need to stop looking out there for the elusive fulfilling work and start looking inward.

In working with people on career change one question I hear frequently is: “How can I have work that is personally fulfilling, makes a difference, and pays the bills?” There is no easy answer to this question. Cheryl Richardson in her book Stand Up for Your Life says: “First, you must make your personal and spiritual development a top priority by following your own unique path toward healing and growth. Second, as you develop a strong character by doing this work, you are also charged with improving the world in some way.”

Personal and spiritual development requires you to look inward, to get to know your inner self. Who are you? What are you passionate about? What are you good at? What motivates you? What kinds of tasks do you really enjoy doing and do well? You don’t have to have all the answers at any given time but it can be extremely helpful to identify these.

Here are some examples:
• bringing joy to others
• building things
• teaching or mentoring others
• creating beauty
• healing wounds
• analyzing information
• finding a new or better way for something to function
• gathering data
• nurturing people

Think about what you love to do that comes easily to you. These are your natural talents or “gifts”. Next, consider how these talents are expressed in your life. Let’s say for example, you identified “teaching or mentoring others” as a core driver for you. How might you do that in your life? Is it something you do in your current occupation or job? Are you able to teach or mentor through other means such as volunteer work? If not, is there a way you can incorporate teaching and mentoring others into your life? Moving into the work you love to do and do well gives us energy, it feeds the spirit and more often than not, brings us a sense of abundance as well as increasing our cashflow.

If you have a sense of being prompted to move into a different line of work, consider what is missing in your current job or occupation. Could be a bit of looking inward is in order. More on this next post!

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?


Last Sunday as I was enjoying my coffee John Lennon’s “Imagine” came on the radio. It must be one of the most wonderful songs of all time, and it got me to thinking about his incredible talent and the legacy of music he left us.

John was raised by his aunt who resoundingly told him he couldn’t make a living playing a guitar. What if he had believed her? Think of all the songs John wrote that we would never have heard. Imagine the last 30 years without the influence of the Beatles! Thank goodness John pursued his passion for making music.

The key to happiness is to do what you love to do, and do it very well. Use your talents, skills and abilities in a way that brings you fulfillment.

What have you thought about that you’d like to do “someday?” It could be anything from cooking to captaining your own sail boat, playing a musical instrument or presenting a workshop. An amazing thing happens when you connect to your creativity, you become energized, engaged, and excited. From this charged place, all manner of opportunities can arise.

I spoke with a woman yesterday who, having been downsized from her office job, decided to take the European trip she’d always wanted to do. Wandering through the markets in Italy and France, she found fabulous jewelry, handbags and other womens accessories. Back in the states, friends and strangers alike commented on her beautiful purchases. She decided to explore the market, to see if small retailers might be interested in carrying similar Italian and French imports. How great would it be to fund her travels to Europe and pay herself for going shopping? She has now made a couple of trips and has established several buyers. Her passion has turned into a profitable business.

What have you always wanted to do? What do you love? Please share your thoughts, and we’ll discuss how those things could be turned into viable and profitable business ventures in future posts.