I have met very few women who knew at the outset of their working life what kind of work they would be passionate about; the kind of work that would give their life purpose and meaning.
Some people never find out and their lives are that much dimmer as a result.
As a young woman, I’d never given any thought about figuring out what really mattered to me. I became a secretary because that was what my Dad decided I should become as I had a gift for languages. I never cared one way or the other – at least not for a very long time.
I’d been a secretary for about 18 years when the circumstances of my life changed. When my husband’s application for a job transfer from London to Gloucester was accepted, the world as I knew it fell apart.
As I tried to settle into my new life and started looking for a job, I discovered that there were few secretarial vacancies at the time. In response to a situation where there were too many people in one particular job category but not enough jobs, the Government introduced a scheme designed to offer opportunities for retraining in order to create new job openings.
I decided to pursue this avenue and chose Personnel Management, not because I knew anything about it but because the only two other options were secretarial and computer qualifications, neither of which appealed to me.
Don’t be distracted from discovering your passion
As it turned out, it was by sheer accident that I hit on the profession that became my passion at the time, Human Resources. As I completed the program and found my first job on the bottom rung of the ladder, it was the first time I had work that had any meaning for me.
As life seems to turn faster and faster it can feel like all we can do is to run just to stand still. Pressures and demands rain on us from all directions and life can feel frenetic; full of lists of things to do, other people’s demands and expectations. A common survival technique is to just give in to others for the sake of a little peace and quiet. It’s not surprising that we become distracted and disconnected from what matters to us the most, even if we knew what that was.
Do you fall into this category? You don’t have to feel passionate about your work. If you enjoy it and your work environment then that’s a blessing. You’d be surprised if you knew how few people do.
However, if you fall within the category of people who feel as if there’s something missing but don’t know what and if, (on the surface), you’ve got it all yet you still feel vaguely dissatisfied without knowing why, then you’re probably ready to look within yourself. Work that has meaning usually goes beyond earning enough to pay the mortgage. When you follow your heart, things outside tend to fall into place too.
Follow your heart
But following your heart doesn’t have to revolve around work; it could be devoting yourself to raising a family; creating a happy and rich home experience for those you love; it could be working to create financial freedom. If your health is not 100%, you might put your energies into improving your health and wellbeing – defined as physical, emotional and spiritual, or it might have something to do with making a contribution to society by way of charity or voluntary work. The options are endless.
When we know what is truly important to us we are able to make choices and decisions that meet our deepest needs and wants because our actions are aligned with our values”
The point is that, to live a truly happy life we need to know what matters to us the most, what makes us jump out of bed and look forward to the day ahead. Every one of us has different priorities and dreams and, when we know what’s really important to us, we’re able to make choices and decisions that are in harmony with it. This, I discovered, is critical to the quality of our life and relationships. More than that, knowing that we’re making a meaningful contribution to our relationships, our work, and/or our community causes us to feel really good about ourselves. We know we matter.
To get the process underway, you might start by taking a large piece of paper and draw a circle. Divide it into eight segments and label each with one aspect of your life, for example, family, partner/children, love, work, finances, spirituality, health and wellbeing (and any other aspect of your life that you want to include).
With a pencil or coloured crayons, fill in each segment to the extent to which you’re happy with how that part of your life feels. The happier you are, the closer you go to the top; the more dissatisfied you are, the closer you stay to the hub.
Reflect on what you have discovered about the quality of your life and record your insights in a journal. Your journal will become a valuable tool for learning and growing; for getting to know yourself better.
You may be one of those people who, like me, finds it helpful to process things by talking to friends, people you trust instead of running around in your own head. The purpose of talking with others is not necessarily so they can come up with some pearl of wisdom but so you can hear the pearls of wisdom that come out of your own mouth. Listen to them; most people don’t. Record it in your journal.
To mis-quote Camus, philosopher and writer: “There’s no happiness if the things we do are different from the things we believe in.”
When was the last time you wondered what that is?
What do you value most in life and have you discovered your passion? How did you discover it – was it self-apparent or did you discover it by accident? What steps do you take to ensure you spend time on your passions and are able to follow your heart?