Choosing Your Career - Do What You Love Most

Choosing Your Career

by Carol James

If you do the work you love, you will love the work you do. Sounds simple enough, but is it? Does our culture really support and encourage people to choose a career \ based on what they love? While moving through our educational system, how many opportunities are we given to uncover and to explore our natural talents, abilities, intelligences and knowing and to learn how to apply them to our true calling? Do our schools teach us how to find and pursue our purpose in life and to follow our passions?

Most of us grow up in an environment where our parents, teachers, school counselors or friends all seem to know what is best for us. They are quick to tell us which career we are best suited for and what skills and education we should acquire to pursue that career, all without taking the time to find out who we really are or what is in our hearts. We are encouraged to prepare for the jobs that pay the highest, that have the most security, that follow our parents' professions or that are in most abundant supply. And because we usually do what they suggest, we empower them to decide how we will spend the largest portion of our life.

Then there is the other side of the coin in which we are given no guidance whatsoever. We are not encouraged to develop potentials that poke their heads above the surface, and often those potentials drift aimlessly away. Art was one of those potentials for me. As a child I always had my nose in a coloring book, and my greatest thrill was coloring the costumes that a friend would create for my paper dolls. My artistic pursuits were mostly hidden in the privacy of my world, rarely exposed to others criticism, until I took an art class as an elective in tenth grade. Wham! A whole new World opened up to me as my creative spirit soared and my latent talent flourished.

Of course, I must credit my teacher, Mr. Dubia (I am amazed that after all these years - 35 to be precise - that I can still not only recall his name but his vivacious spirit and exuberant way of bringing art to life.), for discovering my hidden talent and for nurturing it in ways that allowed it to flourish. Once I latched onto the joys of exploring my artistic abilities, I was obsessed, filling all my elective courses with art classes. By my senior year I had completed all the classes that the school had to offer, so they graciously allowed me to continue my artistic endeavors in the art department as a teacher's aid.

Unfortunately, things came crashing down in twelfth grade when I was interviewed for an art scholarship. Because of my upbringing I was extremely shy and inhibited and through art I had finally found a way to express my inner soul. I was passionate about art and wanted to study only art, but in a four-year college it was mandatory that I study all those required courses. I refused to waste my time studying stuff that held no interest for me. Even back then I understood that if one wasn't interested in a given subject, then trying to make one learn it was a waste of time and energy, as those long forgotten classes that I was forced to take in high school have proven.

Back then, I saw no other option: To continue my art studies I would have to go to a four-year college and take all that other stuff - courses that were as uninteresting to me as eating bugs - just so that I could continue to pursue my passion. I refused to budge. The college refused to budge. Thus ended my career in art.

Of course, you might be wondering why I didn't pursue art on my own if I was so passionate about it. Well, I did. I painted for years, but it didn't pay the rent or make the car payment, so I found myself a real job and joined the ranks of the employed. My artistic dreams ended when a so-called critic told me my talent was non-existent, and my confidence crashed to the floor. Whether he was right or not is immaterial, because I believed him to be right and lost my passion.

That's what started my aimless jump from career to career searching for something to rekindle that passion. Too bad career counseling wasn't fashionable back then. But then, in the world of career counseling, there tends to be a prevalent belief that you must prepare yourself for the jobs that are most abundant - those jobs that are in demand; for instance computer programming, engineering, etc. - or jobs for which you already have some training. Forget about doing what you love, forget about following the urges of your heart, forget about pursuing that which extends from your natural talents and abilities, because it is more important to have a job, any job, that pays well, that offers security, that is recognized as appropriate by others and for which there are plenty of openings.

The biggest problem with doing what is expected or what is popular is that we usually end up sticking with a job that is only marginally satisfying, then live a life filled with complaints and regrets. I've observed this trap up close and personal, watching my father put in the hours, laboring at a job that brought him little satisfaction, that didn't challenge him, that didn't offer him the opportunity to explore his capabilities in any meaningful way and that didn't allow him to use his natural talents and abilities. I watched him labor for 35 years in a job that he hated. That hate drove him to drink, literally, and drove him to such great anger and resentment that it eventually poisoned his body along with his personality.

Why did he do this? Why does anyone stay in a job that they hate or that is a dead end or that is unfulfilling? Because the job pays the rent, because it supports a lifestyle that one is afraid to give up, because it offers security, because it is expected. In the case of my father, my mother was so focused on the extra retirement pay that my father's job would supply, that she bullied him into staying in a job that he hated. Why did he allow her to bully him? I'll probably never know why, other than to suspect that he thought it was his duty to provide for the family, no matter what the cost. At work he counted the hours until he could go home and crash, first taking a pit stop at the local bar to take the edge off his stress, then landing home exhausted and ill-tempered at the end of the day. He marked off days on the calendar until he could retire, impatiently waiting for the day when he could finally take it easy, and do . . . do what? The answer was to do nothing, to take it easy, to be a person of leisure and pursue his passions and hobbies.

His anger and resentment battered his body, initially pounding it with high blood pressure and hypertension, then segueing into borderline diabetes. A year after retiring my father had a stroke which ended his dreams of a leisurely life, and progressed his journey into the world of illness and disease as one problem after another attacked his body. Did he enjoy the retirement for which he gave up his joy of life? I think not. He spent his entire retirement going from one illness to another - after the stroke came insulin-dependent adult diabetes followed swiftly by a leg amputation, a heart attack and other assorted ills - until finally, after nearly 15 years of sickness, he finally fell down, broke his hip, and gave up and died. What a sad price he paid to do what was expected.

Watching my father's hate, anger, resentment and subsequent physical deterioration, I swore that I would never stay at any job that didn't bring me satisfaction and fulfillment. He stayed at a job that ended up destroying his life and he was not alone. The majority of people hate their job, or at best, find it unrewarding, unfulfilling or unchallenging. Is it any wonder why people are so stressed out and plagued by disease and chronic illness?

In the beginning of my working career, I, too, followed his patterning, staying in a job for nearly 6 years that paid extremely well, that had benefits up the wazoo and that was so secure that I would have had to blow up the building to ever get fired. While my security quotient was extremely high, I spent tremendous amounts of time feeling unfulfilled, feeling unappreciated, feeling frustrated, feeling bored and feeling useless. So I quit. Everyone told me that I was crazy. I had tremendous pressure from my parents, from my friends, from my boss and from my co-workers to reconsider my decision and to not throw away my life. Thank goodness I didn't listen.

I took a stand and overcame the first problem inherent in choosing to do what one loves: What will other people think or say? It is my nature to want to please other people, as I know it is others' nature, too, and my choice to follow my own purpose and passion in life often went against what others thought I should do. In their well-meaning way, they tried to convince me of the foolishness of my desire to leave my secure and well-paying job to do what I loved. But they didn't seem to understand my need for professional fulfillment (perhaps they had given up on their own need to be fulfilled), and they automatically assumed that I would fail. Eventually I discovered that what was really going on with them was that they couldn't imagine succeeding if they had chucked their job to do what they loved, and so they were projecting their own fears onto me.

Pause and Ponder

Has that happened to you? Have your family, friends or counselors pressured you to do the right thing and choose a job that THEY felt was best for you? Have you had others tell you that you would fail if you chose to follow your heart? Have you listened to them? If you think that other people's opinions of your ability to succeed holds more validity than your own inner knowing, then perhaps they are right and you should stay in your safe job. If you don't believe that you can succeed, then most likely you are right, you can't.

If, on the other hand, your desire to have a more rewarding and fulfilling career outweighs your fear of failure or rejection, then the next question to answer is, What would I love to do? Finding the answer to that question will take some exploration into yourself to discover who you are and who you want to be. For me, I didn't have the advantage of someone to help me discover what was in my heart, so it took a dozen more jobs, a variety of different careers and a failed business for me to find my way. Eventually I discovered that I had been barking up the wrong trees and looking in the wrong direction for professional fulfillment. Eventually I discovered how to find my niche in life, how to know what I really wanted to do with my life and how to go about reaching my goals.

Pause and Ponder

So here you are at a crossroads in your life, trying to decide what is more important: staying with your current professional circumstances or take the leap into doing what you love. Basically, there are three directions to follow:

Do what is expected of you by your parents, teachers, counselors or peers

Do what is popular, pays the best or offers the most security

Do what naturally extends from who you are and find your niche in life

Which one do you think will bring you the greatest job and life satisfaction and fulfillment?

Suggestions for Further Reading

Author: Carol James, founder of Inspired Living, L.L.C., has been a small business owner since 1985. Visit her www.inspiredliving.com web site, which includes an extensive library of educational, informational, motivational and inspirational articles, stories, tidbits, a discussion list and resource links.

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