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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.

"Weíve lost touch with our authentic purpose in life, and how to express that in a career of our heartís 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, itís 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 heartís true aspirations with the daily reality of your workplace.

For those of you whoíve been there, you know that being in the wrong job takes a toll on the soul. Showing up at a job you donít enjoy can be a draining, dehumanizing experience. And the longer you do it, the worse it feels Ė thankfully. Because without that inner voice, youíd 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 youíve been handed Ė something most of our parents and earlier generations did Ė 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, weíve grown so used to just getting up and going to work that weíve lost touch with our real working selves. Weíve lost touch with our authentic purpose in life, and how to express that in a career of our heartís 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 Sherís I Could Do Anything If Only I Knew What It Was, Sarah Ban Breathnachís Simple Abundance and Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self are but a few examples of books that speak to peopleís 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. Weíve worked so long at jobs we 'have' to do that we often havenít considered the work we want and need to do." Itís a hard realization, and one thatís 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 donít 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 doesnít support their lifestyle needs and preferences.

But what if you just donít know what you want to do?  What if you donít 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 itís a necessary starting point. It means youíre 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 youíre ready to make real changes in your life. For now, you donít know how or what. It doesnít matter. Just open your heart to whatís possible (not just probable) for you and give it a voice. If it helps, write a vision statement for yourself. It doesnít have to be specific Ė 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. Itís not enough to put out a message to the universe Ė you have to do the physical work towards getting what you want, too. If thereís a field youíre 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 Ė youíll be amazed what friends and acquaintances will come up with if youíll only ask.

Listen for the answer. You canít force a new realization about yourself into being or will things to unfold faster than theyíre supposed to. But you can hone your awareness so that youíll 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 Ė one I donít usually read. What drew me to that particular bookshelf and that magazine? I donít 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 Ė 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 Womenís 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 vera@soulgoals.com.

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