When someone asks you who you are or what matters to you, do you tend to respond with an explanation about what you do?
Our jobs quickly come to define us, but there is so much more to us than that.
If you have chosen a career that aligns with your purpose, what you do will be in line with who you are. Congratulations. Your condition is rare. If the two do not align, you are not alone, and you need to read this!
The problem with this misalignment, over the long term, is that it brings illness to the body. Stress, anxiety, and a lack of fulfilment are dangerous to the soul and, ultimately, will make you sick faster than anything else. This doesn’t mean you have to blindly quit your job and run for the stars. You simply have to stop allowing your work to define you, and make space in your life to engage in other work that is more meaningful to you.
This might come to you in the form of volunteering your time, or picking up an evening activity/side gig that allows you to live up to your purpose. It may be achieved by returning to school to learn something new, or strategically redesigning your resume to appeal to a different industry. It may require starting your own business or managing a hobby club. Whatever floats your boat.
The bottom line is that it’s important to gradually (or suddenly, if that works for you) realign what you do with who you are.
If you are having a hard time figuring out what that is, ask yourself these two questions:
- “How do I want to be remembered?
- “If I had 3 days left to live, what would I do with them?”
For me, the answer has always been the same… I want to be remembered for how I helped and taught others and, if I had 3 days left to live, I would be writing fervently.
Simple enough. Here I am.
In the day, I design online courses for students returning to University for a professional degree. At night, I tutor students from Elementary School through to University. In between, I write. I do this while managing a household without any hired help, and with a guaranteed home-cooked meal on the dinner table; so – don’t tell me that you don’t have time. We always make time for what is important to us. I am writing this as I stand in an overcrowded train to work, with a stomach ache (true story!) If you don’t have time for it, it does not truly align with your purpose. Don’t make excuses for it.
For me, dying without having written is akin to not having lived at all. I realized this when I read a piece by John Keats that put this fear on paper. Keats died when he was 25 years young. Until then, he wrote, and wrote:
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned by teeming brain,
Before high-pilèd books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starred face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.
Food for thought.
And remember… we design our own luck!