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"Reworking Work" featured as part of SpiritSite.com's "Coaching Corner" column, is Copyright © 2001 by Vera Nicholas-Gervais. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
"We’ve lost touch with our authentic purpose in life, and how to express that in a career of our heart’s choosing."
Vera Nicholas-Gervais, Reworking Work
Knowing what you want to do in life sounds like the most natural thing in the world. But for many of us, it’s just not so.
You might be stuck in a job that brings you no energy or joy, but not sure how to redesign your professional life.
You may even excel at what you do, but struggle inwardly to reconcile your heart’s true aspirations with the daily reality of your workplace.
For those of you who’ve been there, you know that being in the wrong job takes a toll on the soul. Showing up at a job you don’t enjoy can be a draining, dehumanizing experience. And the longer you do it, the worse it feels – thankfully. Because without that inner voice, you’d risk shutting yourself off and buying into the modern myth that our lives have to fit our jobs, and not the other way around.
People are starting to wake up to this. Passive acceptance of the job you’ve been handed – something most of our parents and earlier generations did – is giving way to a new optimism and the luxury of personal choice. How and where we work is now subject to a new set of criteria, with things like passion, purpose, enjoyment, and quality of life high on the list.
The trouble is, we’ve grown so used to just getting up and going to work that we’ve lost touch with our real working selves. We’ve lost touch with our authentic purpose in life, and how to express that in a career of our heart’s choosing. This deep disconnect between the soul and our working lives has reached near epidemic proportions. People are hungry for answers, and looking for help.
Writers who have understood this crisis of the soul have found a waiting market. Barbara Sher’s I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was, Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance and Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self are but a few examples of books that speak to people’s deepest longings about personally fulfilling work.
"We must seek a vocation that truly expresses our values and needs," wrote Andrew Kimbrell, author of The Human Body Shop and The Masculine Mystique. "Thinking about our true calling, perhaps for the first time, may take considerable time and patience. We’ve worked so long at jobs we 'have' to do that we often haven’t considered the work we want and need to do." It’s a hard realization, and one that’s long overdue for many of us.
This growing need to realign our professional identities with who we really are resurfaces over and over in my work as a Life Coach. No matter what other issues a client may bring to coaching, the personal search for the right work is almost always present.
Some of my clients want to break out of long-held jobs that they do well but don’t like. Others, though they enjoy their chosen field, want to find ways to work on their own terms instead of conforming to a work environment that doesn’t support their lifestyle needs and preferences.
But what if you just don’t know what you want to do? What if you don’t know what your passion is or what kind of work fits your passion? Even in the face of this very real frustration, there are five things you can do to move forward:
Be grateful for where you are. Not knowing what you want can be a confusing and painful place to be, but it’s a necessary starting point. It means you’re finally tuning in to your inner voice and ready to listen to its wisdom. Consider it a gift.
Put it out there to the universe that you’re ready to make real changes in your life. For now, you don’t know how or what. It doesn’t matter. Just open your heart to what’s possible (not just probable) for you and give it a voice. If it helps, write a vision statement for yourself. It doesn’t have to be specific – start by describing the kind of job or job setting you want for yourself. Then explore your motivations for wanting that kind of work, and refine your vision as you get clearer about it all.
Do your homework. It’s not enough to put out a message to the universe – you have to do the physical work towards getting what you want, too. If there’s a field you’re interested in, learn all you can about it. Interview people who are doing the kind of work you feel drawn to. Do volunteer work to get a sense of what a field is really like. Reach out for support – you’ll be amazed what friends and acquaintances will come up with if you’ll only ask.
Listen for the answer. You can’t force a new realization about yourself into being or will things to unfold faster than they’re supposed to. But you can hone your awareness so that you’ll recognize the right opportunity when it comes along and be ready to act on it. Know that this opportunity may be revealed to you in what may seem like the most unlikely circumstances: a chance encounter, a serendipitous moment, a strange coincidence. I found life coaching while casually flipping through a magazine in the library one day – one I don’t usually read. What drew me to that particular bookshelf and that magazine? I don’t know, but that article sent me running home to learn more, and ultimately changed my life.
Welcome the possibility that the answer might not come packaged as expected. Life works in wonderful and mysterious ways when you let it. A dear friend of mine now wants to use the spiritual lesson of a life-threatening illness to parlay her legal skills into a new career in the healing professions. And another has come to see her natural talent and passion for organization as a part-time home-based business opportunity – a way of life that will also support her chosen vocation as a stay-at-home mom.
Vera Nicholas-Gervais is a Professional Life Coach for women, a writer, a monthly columnist for the Women’s Issues Section of Montreal Families, and at-home mom. Visit her website at www.SoulGoals.com (site will open in a new window) or reach her by e-mail at email@example.com.