Leadership

Should Your Life’s Work Stay the Same Your Whole Life?

The average employee changes jobs every four years.

Yet, with each job, it’s likely you take it on as if it’s your entire “Life’s Work”. Consuming 40-80+ hours of your daylight (and sometimes night) hours while expending the best of your energy, and sending other parts of your life to the back seat.

I’ve found myself here repeatedly, and watched others do the same. Our identities become interlaced with this work. We then cancel our personal cell phones, we switch all our email to company email, we stay too late, we lose ourselves/relationships/priorities in the process. Instead of Jean, it becomes “[insert company name] Jean”.

We convince ourselves Someday it will pay off, acting as committed martyrs for the cause.

You may give the best of yourself to your work every day, potentially sacrificing a lot in the process. I most certainly skipped weddings, missed nights out with friends, pulled all-nighters, ate too many Lean Pockets, slept in airports… All in the name of a career I had taken on. It is your CAREER, right? It’s what you know, how you provide for yourself, and the comfortable desk you autopilot to each day. Thinking there’s possibly another route may freak you the hell out. It’s the safe, proven path everyone takes.

  • But what happens when your work becomes trading time for dollars, a countdown to TGIF?
  • What happens when the path you’ve devoted yourself to no longer aligns with who you are and the life you want to lead?
  • What happens when signs of discontentment that lead your eyes wandering outside the coffee shop window and mindless flicking of your Facebook feed emerge?

What happens when you…change? Can your Life’s Work change?

I’ve been a resource to my circle by way of job-hunting advice, interview role-plays, and resumé writing. Having been a hiring manager in my companies for years, I know what employers are generally looking for. Amongst what’s important: Stability. Loyalty. Tenure.

But what does tenure actually say about you?

You’re not flaky, flighty, or unpredictable. A safer bet.

Or consider…
That you just “stuck it out”?
That you gave up on something bigger?
That you’re good at being miserable and “pushing through”?
That you flat-out stopped trying?

Maybe as a hiring manager I was wrong all this time.

Upward mobility, commitment and dedication… All this is jargon we hiring managers look for and love. But as I think of my past, and most importantly, my future, I wonder:

If I change, is it possible my Life’s Work SHOULD change?

As I shape shift, I find light coming through the space where I was once a circle and am now a triangle. To stay on the same rail while becoming richer with more life and new wisdom doesn’t allow me to best serve the world… Or myself.

Does it make sense to stay rigid within one decision, to sit in a place that doesn’t cultivate my fluidity, for the sake of not being labeled a “job hopper” or because I think it’s honorable just to “stick”?

It’s most certainly easier to avoid confronting fears and taking the risks that push us to discomfort. Moving audaciously (and sometimes uncertainly) is scary, so we learn to stay put and to even tell ourselves it’s honorable. Our modern work climate and social norms enforce this by rewarding our singular path, embellished with validating words like “loyalty”.

Yay, you didn’t leave in 40 years, here’s a plaque and an oversized sheet cake.

It’s a wonder, then, that companies who want to continually grow and adapt to an ever-changing and competitive landscape in the business world, don’t tend to prioritize how they can best feed and support the evolution of their most important resource, their people. But, more on that another time…

So we learn to wear this commitment as an invisible leash, tethering our souls, instead of as a staircase that leads us to the next balcony. Instead of a necessary dot that was meant to connect us to the next dot.

The hardest decision in life, then, might be to have the courage to follow the next dot. And if our resumés could better reflect those bold choices and important risks, we’d be showcasing a life well-lived and in pursuit of ourselves.

That’s the resumé I’m interested in building.

Growing up in a struggling single income family, I vowed my choices would never be confined by finances. So I made the money, bought the stuff, and in the end found the dopamine kick that fancy toys gave me filled my house, not my soul. Stripping away my materialistic self forced me to dig deeper and find that lavish lifestyle and status symbols would only trigger hollow, temporary highs. Instead now, I choose to be rich in experience and free in minimalistic living. Security is no longer money, it’s self worth.

This has cleared space to follow my heart, my love, my… Life’s Work? Perhaps I was creating this opening all along.

Consider: Is your Life’s Work your skill set, just what you’ve been good at? Or is it the passion you bring to something, the inexplicable force that leaps you out of bed on a bone-chilling morning. Perhaps, it’s that ludicrous idea you can’t put to rest and seeps out every time you push it back. It could be that long-held interest that’s not even a current talent but, once cultivated, will reveal your truest gift.

Maybe it doesn’t pay well.
Maybe it pays better.
Maybe it just doesn’t matter, because what’s having all the money in the world if your stomach pangs and your soul aches daily for more?
Maybe it’s saving money to take a couple years off to immerse in your “non job” life’s calling…To tinker, explore, and serve.
Maybe that tinkering brings a whole new perspective and breathes invigorated life to merge your current job into a new iteration of your Life’s Work.

Or maybe, just maybe… Your Life’s Work is a continual shift, a constant evolution that morphs with compounded experiences and newfound wisdom.

Completion. New challenge. Completion. New challenge. New journey. New pursuit.

Your body is a vessel of skills and talents. Some have been obvious, yet some are only surfacing. What lies untapped within you that begs to be invited out? Consider the buried genius that is awaiting your permission to experiment.

Like children play dress-up, we have a need to role-play and dance with different sides of ourselves. Today, you make an excellent news anchor, and tomorrow you want to be a restauranteur. It would be a tragedy to never know.

If we have only one lifetime here, then to spend it on a singular, linear path when we house so much potential limits the breadth of our lives.

Positive discontent and yearning often prompt extraordinary ideas and creations to emerge.

A year ago, my hair was brown. Now, it’s pink and blue (well, actually now pink and green). I’ve changed. I quit my “perfect” cool beer job. I leapt without a net.

Now, I’m betting on me. I vow against mediocre comfort and quiet desperation.

Have the courage to take the bet on yourself.

9 Comments

  1. “As I shape shift, I find light coming through the space where I was once a circle and am now a triangle.”

    This line.

  2. Good stuff lady! Whoa. I love this insight and couldn’t agree more. This right here though really rings true to me:

    “Or maybe, just maybe… Your Life’s Work is a continual shift, a constant evolution that morphs with compounded experiences and newfound wisdom.

    Completion. New challenge. Completion. New challenge. New journey. New pursuit.”

    Yes. That is exactly what I believe for myself and it took a really long time to figure it out – but that’s how I approach every single day and every single passion and every single “job” and so on and so on.

  3. Jean, I finally got a chance to read this, and its soooo good! 😀
    My fave line: “It could be that long-held interest that’s not even a current talent but, once cultivated, will reveal your truest gift.”
    Yes yes yes!! ANYthing that brings us joy can be cultivated into an extraordinary talent. LOVE it.
    So excited for you – you’re an inspiration! 🙂

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