“All other creatures on the planet, from the lowest amoeba to the great blue whale, express all their component elements in a perfect dance with the world around them. Only human beings have unfulfilled lives. Only humans suffer from career discontent. But then again, we are the only inhabitants of the earth that get to decide what we will do with our lives. Since we have the option to choose to be the authors of our destinies, why not do it well?” (The Pathfinder)
Periodically I struggle with feeling like I’m living a mediocre life. It’s not that I don’t like my life, because I do, and I don’t necessarily feel like I’m settling, but rather some days I feel like I’ve become complacent with the routine of life.
I was driving into work the other morning and it struck me how most everyone racing along on their commute probably has their day dictated by a clock and the hours required to sit at a desk. It all felt so…ordinary. So unremarkable. And it made me shudder.
“Resignation is a word that can be used to describe the majority of the working class.”
It’s not that I dislike my job, because I don’t. I’m really good at it, and some days it’s fulfilling. But I also don’t find it inspiring or soul-sparking. I view it as a means to an end. The end being flexibility for travel and vacations and spending time with the people I love. You see, I have a lot of vacation that accrues every year. A little over 4 weeks. It’s rare to find a place that provides that kind of benefit. But it’s also rare to have been with an agency as long as I have.
Sidenote: Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you should continue doing it.
Secondary Sidenote: I hate the word “should”.
Lately I’ve been trying to evaluate if staying at a job that isn’t sparking my soul is worth it if it provides the ability to do the things that do spark my soul – like traveling.
I read an article written by a life coach asking some very poignant questions. The theory is that the responses would help connect you to those things that truly light you up.
- What would you do if you had six months to live? This question sent me into spiral thinking. Everyone has the same 24 hours a day. But what do I do with my time? Do I keep a balance? Do I work on projects that ultimately don’t make a difference? Do I make a difference in someone else’s life? We are not guaranteed tomorrow. In fact, we are not guaranteed the next hour, so maybe we all don’t really have those same 24 hours a day. How do you live your life? What would you do if you knew your time was limited? Because ultimately, it is.
- What would your 90-year-old self tell you to do? What advice would you receive from the wiser-you? My grandpa, at age 88 and in the final months of his life, looked me in the eye and said “Your golden years are now.” I will never forget that moment. He strongly believed in responsibility and working hard, but he also saw the value in choosing to live life now. At my age. At any age. Enjoy the travels and new experiences and don’t put them off.
- What do people thank you for? The life coach poses the idea that the answer to this question might be the key to your area of greatest strength and talents. He says if you are feeling disconnected from your purpose, pay attention to the ways people express gratitude towards you.
- What is it time for in your life? Time is a process. It’s continually moving, yet we can’t go backward and change the past, and we can’t warp forward to skip the now. We must go through the summer (my least favorite season) before we reach the fall (my favorite season). What are you learning right now? What is being pressed on your heart?
I have a confession. I love notebooks. I seem to have a collection. I rarely journal and don’t want to waste the beautifully bound pages, so I end up starting a notebook and then moving on to another because I don’t want to mix topics in the same set of sheets. It’s a sickness, I know. I also know some of you relate. I’ve had one particular notebook since December 1997. I know when I got it because it’s signed and dated inside from the person who gave it to me. I’m almost out of pages in it and have been using it up to plan my workouts. Reaching the end of available pages might actually be cause for celebration. Or mourning. But today I flipped to the early pages, curious what else I’d used this notebook for, and found the lines filled in with ideas of attempts at identifying my passions and purpose.
“Dreams that lure me away are giving back, volunteering or organizing a relief aid, living in another country, helping those in need or unfortunate. Adventure. Problem solving. Helping others. Being part of something larger.”
Those are the words in my own handwriting. I wish I knew what year I wrote them, but it really doesn’t matter. It was true then, and it’s true now.
So I find myself in the process of evaluating my day-to-day. Is what I’m currently doing lining up with the things that spark my inspiration, purpose, and joy? Is it worth staying somewhere if it provides the means to the end? Or do I need to take a leap, and start looking for a way to have soul-sparking days that happen every day, and not just on days when I’ve utilized vacation hours?
“If you do not feel yourself growing in your work and your life broadening and deepening, if your task is not a perpetual tonic to you, you have not found your place.” – Orison Swett Marden, founder of Success Magazine
What I do know is this: We are meant to thrive. We are not meant to be in a monotonous rut, going through the motions, feeling uninspired, and leaving our gifts and talents underutilized. The uniqueness of you is meant to be shared with the world – whether that makes a difference to one person, or to a whole country. Figuring out those gifts and talents, and how to best use them, finding your spark, and making that part of your every day… that becomes the challenge.
What are the things that light you up? What causes you to spark? Embrace these things… and do more of them.