How do I find work I love?

Dear Lizzy,

I’m calling because I’m in a career transition and I need to land a new job within the next 90 days. Initially, I anticipated this being quite challenging and felt worried. However, I’ve found numerous opportunities, some of which are appealing but not ideal, while others align more closely with my interests. I’ve been focusing on the latter, which has been consuming my time. I could split my efforts between pursuing what I truly want and applying for safer options, or I could prioritize what genuinely interests me. This is a significant dilemma because I need to earn money to support myself and my family. Both options would provide income, but my passion is emerging strongly. So, what should I do? Should I exhaust myself trying to pursue all avenues, or should I prioritize what truly resonates with me? Would prioritizing my passion be considered selfish or shortsighted?

– Career Crossroads

Working girl, you gotta take a stand, girl

Dear Career Crossroads,

This might feel like a wild notion, but I am going to suggest that you always lean into what you want. Your message reveals that you feel called to trust that what you want in your career is out there waiting for you. What a bold choice in a society that demands us to be practical. I find practicality to be useful if we balance it with the other things we value. When we let practicality be the only reason we choose something, we lean too far away from our truest selves, let our fear take hold, and are led down a path that does not honor our greatest capacity and talent.

You, my dear, already know what you deserve: to do work that inspires you, that uses the whole spectrum of your talents, and brings financial stability to you and your family.

Of course, at the same time, a part of you wrestles with the normal level of self-doubt and skepticism that you can have what you actually want. The path of honoring your truest self that you are embarking on is, in some ways, revolutionary.

Here you refer to “pursuing safer options”. There are many studies showing that in relation to threat, human females have relatively heightened protective reactions compared to males. Another study goes on to report that women are more attuned than men to potential negative consequences of innovations.

You are literally considering playing it safe because your nervous system is hard wired for safety.

We can be grateful that our nervous system has the ability to self-protect and consider our safety. Our job is to not ignore the consideration of our safety, but to be in relationship to that part of ourselves so we can decipher when it is truly a matter of safety versus an unconscious auto-pilot response. In this instance, from what you report about the progress of your job search, you are not in immediate danger.

This gives you the privilege to be picky.

I highly recommend you use this privilege to your advantage. When we are able to make decisions for our lives from a place of stability and self-trust, we often make better decisions and can see multiple paths, leading to more choices. To manage your stress response, it can be helpful to have an idea of where you actually are in relation to having what you need.

When a woman comes to me in a transition and she needs to make a decision, I ask her to consider three things:

  1. Her time runway (how much time does she have to solve for the change until it gets worse)
  2. Her financial runway (how much money does she have until money becomes an issue)
  3. Her emotional runway (how is her mental health and does she feel strong enough to weather the change)

Based on her answers to those questions, we solve for the gaps and work together to cultivate more strength in all areas so she can create the environment she needs to make the best decision possible.

Maybe that’s getting a right now job while she searches for the best thing. Maybe it’s doing contract work or getting a part-time job to cover her gap. Maybe it’s just getting a handle on a few specifics about her situation.

Continue to spend time alone, imagining the job you desire. Allow yourself to feel what it feels like when you are in your full expression of your talents, doing work that fuels your creativity. See yourself in that arena, and remind yourself that you have done it before. This will remind your beautiful nervous system that you are indeed safe, and that you know what you are doing.

Studies also show that we spend a third of our lives at work.

That is on average 90,000 hours of your life spent working a job, collaborating with people, solving problems, being away from your home and your loved ones to be able to afford to live.

When you write about how it feels to pursue the career path that is safe but not what you want, you ask, “Should I exhaust myself?”. This is a time to listen to your body. She is talking to you.

A simple exercise to begin to deeply listen to your body and know you are in touch with your inner knowing is to pay attention to how you feel. Exhausted to me is a signal that you would be going in the wrong direction. Energized, light, bouncy, those are indicators that you are walking toward yourself.

A job search in itself is a full-time job. It already takes a lot of focus and dedication to find a job. We know that what we focus on expands. Do you really want to spend all of that time and energy pursuing something you won’t even want to do? You ask me if you are being silly, shortsighted, and selfish. If I could describe how one might behave when contemplating where she is going to contribute her talent and time for a third of her life, I would hope she would be silly and selfish.

I hear in your message you are really worried that you might not be acting responsibly. For the sake of this exercise, let’s take a look at the actual definition of responsibility:

noun. , plural re·spon·si·bil·i·ties. the state or fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management.

Now let’s create a little “responsibility checklist”

Lean on the list when you aren’t sure if you are doing the “right thing” for yourself and your family. Feel free to add things to this list that feel resonate with you.

  • Are you putting yourself first? (This one might feel icky to those of us who always put others first but must be a top consideration when making such a life-altering decision)
  • Are you honoring your true desires?
  • Are you taking control of where you spend your efforts?
  • Are you using your time to take the actions you need to take to achieve your goal?
  • Are you wielding your talents positively and in the direction of your desires?
  • Are you treating your goal as your top priority?
  • Are you using all of the resources available to you to create success?
  • Are you asking for help?
  • Are you allowing others to help you?
  • Are you staying within your values and acting in integrity?
  • Are you balancing the reality of your situation with your wants and desires?
  • Are you being kind to yourself and speaking to yourself in an empowering manner?
  • Are you treating the kindness of those who are helping you with respect and care?

It’s rare that I meet a woman who is not considering all of the pieces of the chessboard and moving them strategically and responsibly. If I had to guess, you often lean on the side of responsibility.

Perhaps you can tell that part of you that you trust her, you see her, you are considering her needs, and you will take the next thirty days to continue to pursue your ideal career path. In thirty days, you can evaluate your progress and make another thirty-day plan.

If I had to only respond to one sentence in your entire message it would be this one: Should I try to go down all the paths which seems exhausting to me, or should I lean into what I really want to do?

And my answer would be, lean into what you really want to do. Trust yourself. Trust that the momentum you are already seeing is evidence that you are worthy of what you want. You are safe and it is the perfect time to be silly and selfish.

You have one life, my dear, one beautiful life. If you have the opportunity to live it wildly doing things you like to do, spending it with people who light you up, pouring your talents into the world, then I say take that bull by the horns and ride it as far as you can in the direction of what you want.

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