You’ve probably been hearing it for years. Find your passion. Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. Live your purpose – and so on. And who doesn’t want to feel that way, right? Who doesn’t want to wake up every morning filled with the sense that everything you’re about to spend your day doing will be personally meaningful and make a worthwhile impact in the world? It’s a lot of pressure, though, to feel like you have to find “that thing” that will make you bounce out of bed, filled with happiness, ready for a day in which your work feels like play. It is both utterly unrealistic, and entirely possible. The possible lies in getting there; the challenge is in staying there.
What’s the secret ingredient for doing that? Just one thing: you.
If mindfulness can teach you anything, it is that the world is constantly changing, and so are you. Well, mostly you are. We know that mindfulness helps you find a steady space from which you can observe situations and events, including your own thoughts and emotions, as the passing experiences that they are. If your search for personal fulfillment is comprised mostly of looking for opportunities that make you feel happy, excited, good, smart or important, then you may find exactly what you’re looking for – until you haven’t anymore.
Eventually, the sparkle wears off and you’re left with the realization that maybe that work wasn’t your professional soulmate after all. There’s something really important to realize here, though: it’s not them, it’s you. No, really. It’s not just a (professional) breakup line. If you’re looking for a magical source of good feelings outside of yourself, you’ll always find one, but you will also always be looking.
And that meaning you were also hoping to find? Good luck with finding that under every other rock you turn over. That can only come from a long-term relationship, but not the kind you’re thinking of. You don’t even have to work for the same place forever. But, you do have to make intentional choices that collectively speak to your intended impact in the world.
Meaningful work isn’t found, it is created. You infuse your work with meaning by connecting it to your personal mission, which you can only define by looking inward and listening to, as I shared on Monday, “your intuition and your heart.” What is the problem you wish to solve? What is it that recharges your energy and requires all of your strengths? It may be something you can – and will – do in multiple contexts across your lifespan, but those things will be united by meaning for you because they will be in alignment with your mission. If you make changes intentionally, they will also be layered in impact that you leave behind.
For the record, you don’t have to be saving the whales, or the children, or the world for that matter to be doing work that is meaningful. If you are paying attention, you will notice that you encounter people every day who are doing work that that may not seem glamorous or exciting, but which they have infused with meaning and connection to a larger mission. They see the alignment. They feel that meaning. Here’s the thing: you’re not always going to feel happy. Work will sometimes feel like exactly that – work. But, if you are lucky enough to have options in your professional life, you may see your mission clearly in your work. Other times, you may have to look a little harder to see it come through. Stay connected to it, and as you progress and evolve, your opportunities to work with it will only become more evident to you.
So, who am I to be talking all this talk, you might ask? What exactly is my mission? You’re looking at it. Or, a part of it anyway. Although I have been working with mindfulness in many forms for several years, today is our birthday! That’s right, this website is turning the big 1.0. A whole year already of MindfulMBA! (Check out the first post ever!) And we have so much more in store for the year (and years!) ahead. I’m grateful that you have been a part of this, and hope that it has helped you feel more connected to the people and moments that mean the most to you.
Most of all, I hope you realize that at every moment, you have within you the ability to find some quiet steadiness when you need it, to be calm, to respond intentionally, and even more so, to access the power to do great things that have a meaningful impact for you, and on the world. All you need to do is catch your breath, and unleash your potential.
“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.” – Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist
Photo credit: Ian Schneider