Is your job a means to an end or the end-all-be-all work you aspire to do?
Is your work an expression of your gifts or an exercise for your learned skills and abilities?
Being clear on this distinction will save you much soul-searching. And time. Time which you cannot get back no matter what you do.
Let me explain…
If you acquired skills through education and/or training – and you do them well – you have much to be grateful for and the world is likely benefitting from your talents.
Success will come as you hone your craft. Recognition as an “expert” will prevail. You are seen as talented, reliable, and productive. More than likely, you and your loved ones enjoy the many fruits that will come from your hard work. Weeks fly by in a blur of activity, meetings and emails.
In my coaching practice I meet business people with full calendars and busy lives. Upwardly mobile, these talented people live breathless lives.Some of them have a haunting whisper at the bottom of their hearts that says “Stop, please!” Most of these people believe that they cannot stop…they cannot stop the pace, they cannot stop the demands, they cannot cut-back on the hours and they most certainly cannot live on less money.
If this niggling question is inside of you and you can’t make out what it is trying to say. If you very much like what you do but something still is missing…
The work you do, using all those hard-earned skills…is NOT using your gifts.
Gifts are different from skills. You are BORN with gifts – you ACQUIRE skills.
Working at a job that uses your skills and abilities is fine as long as you don’t expect your job satisfaction to feel like passion. Do not confuse work ethic with passion.
When you are using your gifts, it feels completely different. Both are satisfying, but working with your gifts is exhilarating.
Want to know how to tell the difference?
Ask yourself, would you enthusiastically do what you do FOR FREE and not care? Artists know what I mean – they don’t eat or sleep until their art has been born into the world. Writers lose track of the hours they spend on their craft. They are lost in the words until they are perfect.
I am one of the lucky ones. I honed my skills and became successful doing what I enjoyed. I became known as excellent and got paid well to do what I did. I got to retire early (age 54) and pursue my gifts. After much soul-searching, journaling and endless workshops, I realized I was a coach, speaker and writer. And I now get to do THAT!
But what about those who think they can’t heed that inner voice at this time in their life? I say this:
“If not you, who? if not now, when?”
Here are the steps I lead my clients through to get to a life that is fulfilling not “just” rewarding.
- Take time to figure out your gifts and how you would like to express them in this world. Are you an engineer by day, wishing that photography was his/her day-to-day job? Are you a plumber that wants to travel to places that need water systems and help poor villages secure clean water? Or are you the financial planner that longs to teach painting? You owe it to yourself to get clear on this deep desire.
- Once the desire and it’s expression are clear, look at your daily life and find activities that can be dropped to make time for the gift. Even spending a few hours a week on an activity that is aligned to your unique gifts can invigorate and feed your soul. Some will stop at this point and be happy with this minor adjustment. If that is you: CONGRATULATIONS! You have made your life happier by aligning with your gifts. You will feel more alive.
- For those who want to create a Second Act career utilizing their gifts – HURRAY! Put together a realistic plan that takes from where you are to where you want to be. This is where a coach can be of help to help you figure out the blueprint. Once done (and this can take a bit of time), work the plan. Change your life. Align with your gifts. Live your true passion every single day.
That tired cliché “life is short” is truth. When I retired from the job that I gave my mind, health and life to, I regret to tell you that no one skipped a beat due to my departure. The company kept going. The projects kept running. Life went on without me. The world did not come to an end. Humbling to be sure. But after the sting wore off, it was liberating. I could allow myself to move forward with my new life.
And it has been a blast creating my life and aligning it to my gifts.