Is your work in the world your job? Your professional training? A deeper sense of values and mission that drive you? What if all of those were the same thing?
Our toddlers attend a fabulous Montessori school in our community. We were new to this approach and were surprised to learn that each activity (chosen freely by each child) is called "work." Art, blocks, puzzles, measuring cups, taking care of plants - whatever "work" they choose captures their full attention without adult instruction. The children "at work" are present, engaged, and delighted. And without bells, whistles, or wifi.
I was struck by the power of this basic idea - that our “work” in the world (whether we are seven or seventy) comes from giving our full attention to what most captivates and compels us. If we really believed and honored that can you imagine how engaging and creative our workplaces would be?
Unfortunately, as working adults, most of us have had a workplace experience of stress, social dysfunction, and mind-numbing monotony (I speak from experience - flipping burgers and cleaning dental equipment were my first two jobs in high school). At the same time, as an organizational consultant I've witnessed dozens of workplaces brimming with energy, compassion, and creativity.
COVID has disrupted all of our working lives, but it has also created an opportunity for us to examine how closely our "work in the world" is attached to a particular location, role, or schedule. Your actual job may be challenged during this crisis, but your fundamental work in the world doesn't have to be.
Here's how to stay clear on the difference between a career and a calling. There is the "WHERE AND HOW" we do our work - the title, organization, project, role, pay. For me: "I'm the Founder of JourneyLEAD and do leadership consulting."
But more important is:
The "WHAT and the WHY" of our work which sounds something like this:
- I teach to inspire and empower others
- I am a care-taker who brings healing to those in pain
- I create art to bring joy and beauty to the world
- I am an activist who brings comfort to the afflicted (and affliction to the comfortable)
- I am a problem-solver who resolves conflict and complexity
We deserve to be secure, rewarded, and acknowledged for the talent, skill and mastery we bring to the world. But even when those external validations are shaky, our fundamental gifts and callings remain unchanged.
Wherever you are on your career journey (job, no job, schooling, volunteering, etc.), I encourage you to declare your work in the world with clarity and conviction.
What work brings you joy? What work draws you in with child-like wonder, ease, and pleasure? Regardless of what you are paid or recognized for, what has been your most fulfilling contribution to those around you?
If the answers to those questions are unclear, I encourage you to think deeply about your earliest passions. How far off-track has your adult work taken you from those most natural yearnings?
Don't waste this opportunity to get back to basics. Your passion, your power, your purpose in the world.
That is your real work.
I believe in you - Anne
P.S. If you are a woman ready to explore these questions with some structure and inspiration check out my Career Crossroads program launching this Friday, August 21. Registration closes on Thursday, August 20. I'd love for you to join us!
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