Many of us have talked at length about the pursuit of a meaningful, rewarding career. We have lived through tyrannical bosses, mergers and acquisitions, exhausting work and travel schedules and various states of financial panic. We saw the job market explode and shrivel before we knew what to do about it, and comforted far too many friends and former colleagues who spent huge stretches of time out of work. Some of us were those people and wondered if we were destined to become the modern equivalent of dust-bowl farmers.
I found this for myself when I began to think about my own life’s work. I reflected back on all the things I have done in my career and I came to the realization that the core of my life’s work is about transformation:
- As a young community development college student, I was passionate about the capability of communities to transform themselves from repressed and poor into empowered and economically viable with grassroots leadership.
- As a martial art teacher, I continually was awed by students’ complete physical transformations from being disconnected from their bodies to developing lean, mean fighting machine physiques and strong, empowered minds.
- As an organizational consultant, I love watching leaders, teams and organizations transform from bitter, blocked, political and unfocused operations to smoothly running places where people want to work.
- As a personal coach, I am amazed to watch individuals completely transform their thinking about what their life could be.
- As an addict of home improvement shows such as Trading Spaces and Clean Sweep, I get more excited than I should about watching a shabby 1970’s family room turn into a place of peace and beauty, all on $1,000 budget.
By realizing that I thrive on transformation, I can be in many different and difficult "job" situations (even while self-employed) and still feel excited and motivated to be learning something that contributes to my life’s work.
- Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle (you may end up needing a couple of sheets of paper).
- In the left-hand column, list the jobs you have held over your working life.
In the right-hand column, take one job at a time and answer the question:
When I really enjoyed this job, what was I doing?
- List all these activities in the right-hand column. When you have finished with your first job, go through each job on the list and continue to add activities on the right-hand column.
- Next, in the left-hand column, list all the volunteer activities or hobbies that you have been involved with over the years. In the right-hand column, answer the same question:
When I am really enjoying this volunteer work or hobby, what am I doing?
- Once you have completed your list, look at all the items in the right-hand column and try to see patterns. You can group your thoughts in categories if it is more helpful.
How can focusing on your life’s work help to find more meaningful jobs or a new business?
For example, as a trainer, what kind of work did I enjoy?
- Working with all kinds of groups of people to figure out what they were interested in
- Creating comfortable, interesting environments
- Creating colorful, creative displays and presentations that contributed to a comfortable environment
- Carefully planning and defining learning objectives and creating a clear path to get there
- Ordering interesting food for my classes
- Getting teams motivated and aligned around a single goal
- Individual interactions and conversations
- Trouble-shooting and solving crises in the moment
- Developing a proposal and delivering on-time and on-budget
All of this experience can be very helpful in opening a restaurant. Clearly there are some skills or experience that you don’t have, but often it will be less daunting than if you view it as a "total career change." When you look at your life’s work, many possibilities begin to appear.
By looking at your total life work experience, you will feel confident and prepared to make significant career changes.
(Photo credit, my son Jeffery. Gratuitous picture, vaguely linked to topic — you can have your grapes and eat them too!
It is my baby Angela’s first birthday today, so I had to post her sweet
face. Happy Birthday Sweet Pea, thanks for the joy you bring to me every day!)