I am a big believer that work can be a source of meaning, inspiration and purpose. It can be more than a paycheck and something that fulfills our soul…
…yet, I have also come to realize that it can also be more complex and nuanced than just following your passion, your callings or doing what you love. The internet is abound with blogs & articles that keep giving us these messages and for many of us who may have not fully realized that dream, we can feel as if we are failing and that so many others have figured it out (which may not always be true).
This is what I have learnt in the last few years…
- The relationship between the journey & destination – What we see on someone’s LI profile, magazine cover, etc. is often the final product but what can sometimes be missing is what went into it – the sacrifice, tears, fears, doubts, inner critic. This all part of the deal and there are no short cuts. Experimentation & tinkering is fun & scary and the pattern may emerge when you look back not when you are looking forward. There is much more inner growth if we can embrace this journey, the chaos and learn to sail with it instead of fast tracking to the end.
- What if there is no destination? – My friend, Ayaka and I were recently having this conversation and she said something that struck a deep chord – “What if I may never have all the answers, what if I get somewhere and realize that’s not what I want? What if I get the dream job only to realize that my boss left the company and the new one isn’t letting me bring my new ideas to fruition?” There is no escape from this reality…
- Work cannot solve everything – This one is big. What are we trying to optimize for? For me, it’s about a meaningful life with work being a part of it (not the other way around). Now if this is true, I could have different “things” I do in a given week that feed different parts of my life and that work doesn’t need to satisfy all parts of me at the SAME time. In fact, many a times having more than one career is the optimal solution for some of us. (Highly recommend, One person/many careers if you’d like to learn more). While I can aspire for work to be fuel all or more parts of me, setting realistic expectations can be a huge reliefJ This brings me to # 4
- Job/Career vs. work – We often used these terms interchangeably but they are NOT always the same. For the purpose of this conversation, I’d say a job/career is an activity that you engage in as a form of vocation & often times get paid for it. But we can do many different kinds of work in our lives – at a job, at home, in our communities, etc. I have to greatly thank Pamela Slim for introducing me to the concept of “body of work.”
- Work/life integration – This one is the hardest. Finding work that can fulfill oneself yet also integrate with other core values is very hard yet incredibly important for sustained satisfaction and joy. A rewarding job that includes a 3 hour commute with 2 young kids may be less appealing (for some) than a less fulfilling job that is 5 minutes away from home that allows more time for the kids and a home cooked dinner every night. When we look at work/jobs in isolation, we don’t see the whole picture.
- The dream changes – We as individuals evolve, our priorities and values change, our inner circle changes and then of course the world around us changes which makes it nearly impossible that our callings, passions and purpose in life will stay the same. This constant evolution is OK. While we need focus and a few core tenets to focus on, their manifestation may not always be linear.
- Social circle matters – We often ignore this one but is hugely important. When trying to answer these big questions (that don’t always have one straightforward answer), a support system is key. Also important to know is that there will always be a few around us who will think we are crazy, undecided, unfocused, unhappy, dissatisfied and will keep reminding us about it. We can learn to smile, receive the feedback, do an intentional check in and stay true to what’s important.
- Excessive planning isn’t always the answer – This one is hardest for me. Spreadsheets, journals, therapists, coaches can be part of the solution but sometimes we have to surrender and trust that that universe has a plan. As my coach had once reminded me – “We are cooking a delicious stew in a crockpot, adding the ingredients we think will add flavor but we aren’t sure what the dish is going to look and taste like!”
- It’s a privilege – This one is the most important. It is an incredibly privilege to have the time to reflect, write and make choices that can make my work & life more meaningful. There are billions of people on the planet who struggle to bring food on the table and I cannot lose sight of the amazing gifts I have in my life!