Finding your calling

Great work cover-smallHow many people do you know who…
…love what they do,
…think their boss and coworkers are great,
…believe they are making a meaningful difference
in the world and
…feel like they are they are deeply valued for their talents?

Not too many?

What a waste! A waste of time, of life’s energy, of talent, and of missed opportunities to solve the problems of the world. We spend most of our life on this earth working—whether in a paid position or not. Unfortunately:

  • Many people struggle to discover their GREAT WORK, their calling or life’s work that brings meaning and joy to their life.
  • Many people work in organizations that haven’t been designed for GREAT WORK. Instead, they are soul-sapping and disempowering.
  • Many people work under managers who don’t know how to lead people to GREAT WORK.

GREAT WORK is
where you love what you do and
are making a meaningful difference in the world,
while your organization is designed and managed
to support these two goals.

I’ve recently release my latest book,  GREAT WORK. It is organized around 12 principles you can use to guide your life and your workplace. Here is an excerpt from the first part called Find Your Great Work. Don’t waste another minute of your life doing soul-sapping work!

What do you want to do with your life?

It’s a shame that some people haven’t found their calling, that special fit between who they are, what they care about and what the world needs.

Too often, working is soul-sapping, not soul-giving. Sometimes, people take jobs just for the money and find that it depletes their energy for life. I’ve had a job, a career and a calling and they are all quite different. When I had a job, I wanted to minimize the amount of energy I expended there so I could go home and live my life. What a waste of 8+ hours a day.

Then I had a career. I had a sense of where I was going and was using some of my skills. But still there was a big gap between some of my values and the industries I worked for. I was a divided-self.

Then I got a calling and suddenly my life, almost the entirety of it made sense. I was working on issues I cared deeply about and my skills and gifts were a unique asset to carrying out that mission. It felt as if everything I was—my values, my passions, my skills, my interests—wove together into a rope that drew me forward.

One of the most powerful things you can do to find your calling is to catalog your passions.

Catalog your loves

When I was two-and-a-half years old, my parents were building a house and my mother asked what I wanted as wallpaper. I described an out-of-doors scene with butterflies, birds and flowers. I wanted my room to become a mural of nature so that when I was forced to nap, I could pretend I was outside. Unfortunately those murals weren’t invented a couple decades later, so what I got was a disappointment that I’m sure my mother never understood. But that was the first marker of one of my life-long loves, a love of nature.

When I was in second grade, I tried to help a friend who probably had dyslexia. No one knew what that was back then, but I became fascinated with how to get what was in my head into hers. And later, as a teenager, I taught horseback riding as a way to develop self-esteem. Here was my second love, a love of teaching.

I was probably eight years old when I was playing Old Maid with my best friend. If you haven’t played the card game, the objective is not to get stuck with the Old Maid at the end of the game. Nice metaphor, huh? I knew that I didn’t like the feeling of losing, but I also didn’t like winning because then my friend would be sad. So I took the Old Maid out of the deck and sat on it so no one would lose. Enter my passion for win-win relationships and collaboration rather than competition.

That little horseback riding business and the influence of my father made me curious about business. And I remember loving science in high school. These weren’t exactly in the same category as my loves, but they set the context in which I would love to work.

Just with these few vignettes, it should be obvious why I was drawn to working with highly empowered workplaces and self-directed teams. (Remember the Old Maid?) And when the field of sustainability came along, it wove together for me all the things I loved into a strong rope, a calling that pulled me toward it: my love of nature, my interest in science and business, my talent for teaching and writing. Bing! Bing! Bing! A trifecta! I got to protect the thing I loved (nature), play with concepts that interested me (science and business) and apply my favorite skills (teaching and writing) at the same time. Bliss!

I believe that each of us has certain themes that like threads, get woven into our lives early on and extend for all of our life. If you can identify those themes, those threads, and then weave them together into a career, they become like a rope pulling you along your ‘right path’ to completing your life’s work.

When I look back over my life it’s almost as if there was a plan laid out for me – from the little girl who was so passionate about animals who longed to go to Africa and whose family couldn’t afford to put her through college. Everyone laughed at my dreams.

I was supposed to be a secretary in Bournemouth.

Jane Goodall, chimpanzee researcher and advocate

How to get a copy of GREAT WORK

Paperback ($19.99. Get 20% off for a limited time)

eBook of just Part 1: Find Your GREAT WORK.  ($2.99)

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