You hate your job. You’re convinced of it. Somehow, you tell yourself, you just know that you’d live a fulfilled life if you could cut the apron strings and do something you truly loved to do for eight hours a day.
That might be true. Mostly, though–and I know that this kind of directness might feel like jumping into an uncomfortably cold body of water– this line of thinking is self-delusion.
(Go ahead and wince.)
For the most part, the idea that jumping ship and working for ourselves will make us happier is just too easy. It becomes a fantasy that gets us through the work day, when right in front of us is this opportunity for the most profound sort of personal growth, the kind of spiritual practice that is immediately applicable to our lives and even more transformative than running to get another self-help book or to meet another Life Coach.
It’s difficult to do, but here it is: If you want to work for yourself, don’t jump ship from the old job just yet. First, spend some time treating your 9-5 job like a spiritual workshop in fulfillment.
My “9-5 job” is as an English professor. I’m not truly excellent at it, but I am good. I can bring some energy and enthusiasm to the classroom. I can lesson plan an entire semester in fewer than 48 hours. I can tell you why it’s more grammatically correct to use “fewer” in this sentence, as opposed to “less.” (If you must know, “fewer” applies to quantifiable amounts, and “less” applies to ambiguous quantities.)
My heart is not in teaching essay writing and thesis statements, though. My heart is aligned with teaching integrity, living 100% fully alive, and using the power of your life to be a change agent for the world.
Even though my professorship is a very part-part-part time gig, there have been times when workload or necessity has demanded that I sacrifice some time from developing my business to making sure that the demands of teaching English are met.
So this is what I do on those days when I enormously resent this: I ask myself:
“What can I get out of this experience? Where can I see an opportunity?”
The first answer that ever came to me was this: I can nurture.
I have wanted to start a family for a little over a year now. The timing is not right, which is fine, but that doesn’t mean that the desire isn’t still there. So I decided this: I would practice nurturance with my students. I would practice unconditional love and acceptance. I would practice softening my tone of voice when I responded to their complaints. I would practice BEing the love that I hoped to show to my child, one day.
In that way, my “9-5” job became my spiritual practice, this opportunity that was about more than health insurance and rent money, and more about fulfillment and practicing my vision for who I want to be in the world.
If you currently hate your job, ask yourself: “What can I get out of this experience? Where can I see an opportunity?”
There might be any number of things. Perhaps the opportunity is to make a new friend. Perhaps the opportunity is to learn how to deal with the most difficult boss in the world, and sharpen your negotiating and communication skills until you are never again fazed when someone unleashes their criticisms. Maybe the opportunity is to practice being present. Maybe there’s a networking opportunity that you can nurture.
My own list of “What I can get out of this experience” as an English professor includes: The opportunity to practice nurturance, acceptance, and compassion; dedicated time to reading and reviewing amazing books; more practice speaking to large groups with the proper posture and without over-projecting my voice or saying “ummm” too many times; teaching students the truth about U.S. foreign policy (I frequently assign somewhat subversive material for reading); giving something back to students in the form of my time and care for who they are and what they are capable of.
In essence, I identified what I really wanted to get out of working for myself, and started putting those feeling qualities into the “9-5” job.
We have this opportunity to choose to extend who we are into all circles of our life–to live big, regardless of circumstances. It’s not having every little thing we want that makes life fulfilling, it’s having an orientation towards life that is about fulfillment that makes life fulfilling.
Luckily for us–we have this moment, right here, to step straight into having exactly what we want, regardless of circumstances.
Our choice in orientation is one that can be made right here, right now.
Kate Swoboda is a Life Coach, speaker and writer who supports change-makers to clarify, build, and live their big visions. She’s the author of the Courageous Living Guides and creator of the Courageous Play and Create Stillness retreats. In the Fall of 2011, she’ll debut The Coaching Blueprint. She’s excited about learning languages, reading as many books as she can, getting bendy-stretchy on the yoga mat, the quest for the next amazing chai latte, and running.