Every time you don’t follow your inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, loss of power, a sense of spiritual deadness. –Shakti Gawain
Let’s start here—a quote straight from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Cameron is a legend in the creative field for helping people overcome “writer’s block” or the equivalent in any artistic endeavor. Her book has been turned into workshops and classes all over the world since it was first published in 1992. I came across The Artist’s Way in 2006. In the second week I got a new therapist, the third week I quit my job, by the sixth week I was registered in a yoga teacher training program and by the time I reached the end of the 12th week I had an entirely new life of hope before me.
What Cameron, and others like her, offers is this notion that we are all raised with specific myths about jobs and careers. Just like the right way to wash a dish, make a bed or fry an egg we are taught how to perceive the job market. Those teachings might not be helpful for our interests and they might not even be accurate. So she encourages an examination about what each person actually desires from a career.
The premise that we could invent a career starts from the idea that as citizens of this world we are responsible to step up and declare how best we can help the world. It is like planning a surprise party. One person offers to make the fancy paper invitations, another offers to cook, another offers to make up an excuse to bring the guest of honor, another offers a clean house for hosting, another will bring tasty wine. Each person automatically gravitates to what they are good at, what they have to offer.
“The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves, they find their own order…the continuous thread of revelation.”-Eudora Welty
Your life experiences and your strengths have fallen together to make you uniquely qualified for something. The bad job you had when you are young (or have now) is really your best teacher informing you of all the things that drive you crazy. When you have the strength make a list of the things you hate and begin a new job search. Each step along the way helps us know ourselves better and our actual desires. You can speed up that process of self-knowledge by asking some deliberate questions.
How Much Do You Want?
I recently started following www.becomingminimalist.com. If you don’t know the website or the blog, I highly suggest. Joshua Becker talks a lot about using minimalism as a way to find out what you really want from life. The pairing down of possessions, purchases, and commitments is quite inspiring. His blog delves into the lifestyle and professional changes that can come from a minimalistic lifestyle. I bring up the concept of minimalism not as a suggestion that you throw out all your stuff, but as an invitation to think about all the things in your life you pay for and maintain. This quantity affects how much you have to work.
How Much Do You Want To Work?
I used to think this question was silly. Don’t all people want to be on vacation all the time? But actually it is an important question. Some people are born industrious; five days a week is only sufficient if they work late, go in early and do work from home on the weekends. Other people work very well in intense increments like 72 hours on non-stop followed by four days off. Others like four long workdays and one free weekday. Others like to work parts of days so there is time to attend to other things like family, fitness, hobbies, rest. If money were no object how many hours a week would be best for you physically and emotionally to work?
What Makes You Giddy?
The two big time sucks of our life will be sleeping and working. You’ve already heard me rant about the importance of high quality sheets and mattresses so you know I’m going to have a thing to say about work life. Is there any subject matter in all the universe that actually makes you giddy? Sometimes I wish I could go back to my 15 year-old self and just brag about how I found a career where I can just talk about women’s periods all the time. Sometimes it is hard to own up to what really excites us. Give yourself the time and the freedom to actually figure it out. If you are going to spend 40+ hours a week thinking about something, shouldn’t it really excite you?
With Whom Would You Like to Work?
Don’t just think about supervisors and co-workers, but let it expand to populations and demographics of people: infants, kids, teens, adults, the elderly, animals, insects, plants, materials, etc. I like to work with pregnant women and new mothers, because they are joyful but also deeply appreciative of being nurtured themselves. If you want to work with animals then working in a bank isn’t going to be satisfying. It is important to know the kinds of people and things you want around you on a daily basis.
What Do You Despise?
I’ve talked a lot in past posts about how our weaknesses and dislikes are often more informative than our strengths and likes. I like a ton of things. I’m interested in a ton of stuff. That in no way means I should pursue all those things. But the things I detest (meetings, bosses, co-workers, strict hours, 9-5 schedule, etc.) are actually quite informative and always relevant. When we get down to nuts and bolts I’m a terrible employee, but I’m a great sole proprietor.
What Type of Work Inspires You?
My husband and I are always excellent examples because we are so varied when it comes to career. We have always known that I would be a healer, though it took a long time to figure out what kind and he would be a designer and builder. He wants to figure out puzzles and create spaces, I need to be asking personal questions and improving people’s health. That is all we knew in the beginning and with time we were able to hone in on the specifics. What type of work inspires you? Service work, building, designing, active or physical work, entertainment, financial, invention? The list goes on and on.
These are a few safe, simple questions to begin the process. From the safety of your current job or when you are on vacation or something, just begin to imagine what could be possible. What would take advantage of your greatest strengths and avoid most of your weaknesses? This is the first post of four. Don’t worry about the next step, just be present and have fun imaging. Be as creative as you possibly can. Remember that jobs don’t actually fit as cleanly into categories as we think they do.
Other Resources For Inspiration In The Very Beginning Of The Process
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