Pursuing What You Love With the Risks & Dips

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
~ Howard Thurman

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a celebration for a friend who gathered her family and friends together to rejoice in the fact that she has spent the last twenty (20) year studying and earning income through teaching yoga, a thing that she loves. After, my fellow attendees and I enjoyed hearing the poignant and laughter evoking stories about her journey, sang joyously together, and participated in a exhilarating circle dance, the celebration turned to eating and mingling.

Another attendee and I began to converse and I shared about my path as a “first generation professional,” that oftentimes bewildering phase after being a first generation college student.  I spoke with her about how I now see that a true sense of wellness requires that we discover the things that we love, find ways to work at them, and then hopefully earn a livelihood from one or more of our interests.

This very kind woman communicated that she loves all types of animals andvetpets that she determined earlier in life that she would not be able to make a living by pursuing her passion. She had considered being a veterinarian and the schooling and having to work with blood was enough to deter her. Instead, she found work that “pays the bills” and makes room for that “love” by taking care of any stray animals that she encounters.

As I considered her response, I wanted to believe that there were other options for her to apply her passion in the world and earn income. Maybe work through a local animal shelter or through the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), something. Ironically, we were having this conversation at an event for someone celebrating doing work that they love for the past twenty years.  I suppose that if everyone was doing work that they love, we all would be attending beautiful celebrations like these all of the time! Wouldn’t that be a lovely world?

One distinct theme that this woman shared with me related to “risk”. At her age (mid-fifties), she was not willing to “risk” pursuing a new career area because she highly valued the benefits provided through her employer. She went on to comment that she knew that there was no guarantee that her benefits would remain at the same level and she was uncertain about if retirement benefits will be available.

I have had so many conversations lately about how pursuing what you love and stepping out of the box of traditional employment feels intense and at times overwhelming. Unless a person has discovered what they love, feels a compelling need to walk in the direction of their vision, and has support and resources, most dreams are not realized. It feels much easier to simply find “good enough” work and live your life. At this particular point in time, even finding “good enough” work is a challenge….and of course poses an opportunity for many.

thedipIn my current career exploration phase, I’ve been on a “reading bender”: integrating as much knowledge related to professional development as I can through books, audio, and online materials. Some of my recent acquisitions of insight came from reading Seth Godin’s books The Dip (May 2007) and his most recent publication Linchpin (January 2010). I love the public library system!

The Dip, an extremely small book and a quick read, helped me develop a much better understanding of the troughs or low points that I have experienced on my professional development path.

I unintentionally became a consultant working for a prominent international management consulting firm. Becoming a master consultant (i.e., a partner) in that environment required certain sacrifices of time and my life as well as cultural adjustments that were simply incompatible with who I am and what I love.

I also started a masters program geared at training me to be a therapist. I then discovered that there were certain sacrifices of time, energy, and additional compromises to my fundamental beliefs and experiences that made the process of becoming a licensed counselor unappealing to me. Those sacrifices and compromises were the dip, whose uphill slope I could not overcome. Similarly, additional schooling and working with blood represented a professional dip for this woman, whom I engaged with briefly.

In Linchpin, Godin addresses why many of us settle for the good enough or “stable/safe” job or life conditions through the idea of the linchpinlizard brain (i.e., the limbic system).  The lizard brain and the protective resistance it generates was not a new concept to me.

What I loved was his emphasis on being remarkable. Discovering what we love and finding ways to share it with the world in a remarkable way is one of the most motivational, sustainable, and enlivening missions that we can nurture.

I am happy to report that I feel as though I have finally identified a list of things that I truly love: professional development, intuitive eating, environmental sustainability, easeful technology,  and energy work (e.g., Qigong) and movement practices. The next move is to find ways to include these areas in my income generating work and to add some remarkable contributions to this world. The dip is no match for a person with a compelling vision and a strong desire to experience true mastery.

What dip(s) do you want to surmount?

3 thoughts on “Pursuing What You Love With the Risks & Dips

  1. Kellie says:

    Just the other day I was speaking with a friend and we discussed how we are learning perhaps life isn’t so much about getting everything we want but about finding the compromises we can live with. Perhaps this is the way of moving toward our meaningful contribution to this life. I think it is often portrayed that we should be willing to sacrifice everything for the career we love, be so passionate we can see nothing else. Just look at Grey’s Anatomy where they fight over surgeries and the patients usually take a back seat. What about those of us who seek balance? How do we incorporate the truth that we are always changing?

    Just some of my thoughts. I really need to get my hands on that book.


  2. Latoya J. says:

    How we make a meaningful contribution is a tricky area to me. Technically, the woman, who I spoke, with has been able to make a contribution that is meaningful to her by taking care of stray animals. The funding to provide food and shelter for those animals came from doing the “pay the bills” job that she’s had for many years.

    I feel like my experience and perspective is compelling me to make a contribution on a systemic level by helping raise or expand consciousness around certain areas where more awareness and guidance will be helpful for people. I’m not completely sure how that is going to look yet.

    Due to cultural and societal norms, work has a way of taking over you’re entire life. So, the concept of work/life balance had to be “invented” and is easily trodden over. I agree, a certain level of compromise, negotiation, or willingness to accept areas not necessarily to your liking is always a part of most processes. What’s great is that I see more and more people claiming multiple professional identities. People indicate that they are a author, a coach, a trainer, a change agent, and the list goes on.

    I see now that knowing my core/sacred values and seeing if they match with the core values of a profession is key. Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to get a true understanding of the unconscious core values/accepted norms of a profession, until you’re inside of it. Through immersion in a professional culture, your values get clear in contrast to your experience and you may discover that it’s not going to work for you! More internships and job shadowing need to happen.

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