“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 and 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.
In 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 lizard 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.