Rumor has it that most people are living lives of quiet desperation, not engaged in work that brings them fulfillment. If that’s true for you, take heart. There is a way for you to love what you do and do what you love.
Some people set out working in organizations or committed to jobs only to find they have surprisingly moved away from their original intention. If they moved into their field to “make a difference, " they now push paper and feel far removed from the reasons that led them to this place.
Others long ago bought into the belief that it’s nearly impossible to be doing work that brings them joy. After all, shouldn’t they just be grateful to have a job when so many others are out of work? They often believe it’s unrealistic to pay the mortgage and be engaged in fulfilling work. Fulfillment is just for the idle rich or the very famous.
Here are some simple secrets from people who are doing fulfilling work. Because we are not tuned in to these notions — like tuning to a certain television station called fulfillment — we miss the opportunity to experience fulfillment in our work as well.
Fulfillment at work comes out of believing that it is possible to find fulfillment in our work. The more we believe this, the more possible it is to engage in work that gives true pleasure.
Barbara Sher, a well-known career development expert, begins one of her keynote presentations by congratulating her American audience for being “Puritans. " We’ve absorbed the notion that work needs to be “by the sweat of our brow. " At an unconscious level we have bought into the idea that we need to work hard and do unpleasant tasks to earn our livings.
Get in touch with your needs
We need to get conscious and rethink this notion: If we operate so robotically, we don’t take control of our own situations at work and discover what we enjoy doing.
Fulfillment also comes from taking the time to get in touch with what fulfills us. How often do you sit down and ask questions about what fulfills you? As often as you plan your vacations? Do you and you spouse have dinner conversations about what fulfills each of you? Was the topic of fulfillment one in which your family engaged during the holidays when you all gathered together?
Tap your unconscious beliefs that work has to be difficult or unpleasant, and take the time to get back in touch with the dream you once had about doing anything you wanted to do as your livelihood. Take these two steps and you will be light years ahead of most of us and closer to finding your true vocation.
Each of these steps covers the “doing what you love" part of the equation. Still stumped with what that could be for you? Heighten your awareness about what draws your attention, what brings more life to you.
Where does your mind wander when you are allowed some fallow time, and by the way, buy yourself some fallow time. While you’re at it, start moving your body: Go for a walk, get in the shower. The answers waiting are not only to be found in your head. Your big toe might have a greater notion of what fulfills you than your brain does. As you exercise your big toe, you may find some surprises and great intuitions about what would bring you true fulfillment.
Work: baby and bathwater
Additionally, you can pay more attention to what you are actually doing to find more clues to fulfillment. For example, make a list of what is the baby of your work and what is the bathwater: What you would keep about what you do and what you would throw out, given the chance to decide. Spend a good two weeks compiling this list. Look for more ways to increase what you have in your baby column and less ways of doing what’s in the bathwater column. After you’ve completed this list, give away as many of the tasks in your bathwater column as you can to someone else. Or brainstorm ways to make those tasks in that column more fulfilling for you. You also might initiate deliberate conversations with people you know, people you work with about what they like and dislike about what they are doing. Hearing others complain as well as rave about what they love about their work may trigger some notions. But don’t go down the “ain’t it awful" path with people. That will just drive you both to the thought that there’s no way out. Just be curious about what they tell you. As you look at their work situations objectively, you will see things they are not seeing about their work. In turn, that observation will raise your own awareness about blind spots in your own thinking about your work.
Uncover your blind spot
It is also useful to use various metaphors to look at this situation. If work were your lover, what would your work look like? If you knew that work could be pleasurable, what would you aim for?
Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow — remember that book title from several years ago? I heard many people grouse about this book. It’s not possible, these people suggested – to do what you love and get money for it. But think about the people you know at work who love what they are doing. Aren’t they filled with energy that escapes others? They willingly show up early and stay late, they’re fully engaged. Aren’t people who love what they do the first to get promoted and recognized?
Everyone can be doing work they love and make a living doing work. My hope for you is that you take the time to explore what brings you joy in your work, and go for it with gusto. We’ll all be the better for it!
Melanie Keveles MA, CPCC, Certified Professional Life Coach. She’s a “dream champion, " working with people who want to change career direction, start a business or publish a book. She’s available via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org , by phone at 715-394-4260, or http://www.onlinecoaching.com .