Our work should be a manifestation of who we are and what we believe. Often when life is stagnating, unfulfilling, or inauthentic we see it in multiple areas of our lives. It shows itself in our finances, our relationships, our spiritual lives, and our work.
Sometimes our pain leads us to look for a new job because it is a quick fix. We seek a job change when what we really want is to integrate and anchor what we believe into the rest of our life. We want to live a soulful existence that is true to who we are and meaningful.
Our lives are indeed short, but we get many chances to get up and face a new day. It is probable that you will get up tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. Time is limited, but most of us get an unfathomable number of hours to do work in our lives. What makes a life fulfilled is when we align our work pursuits with the things that bring us joy.
We shouldn’t have to force ourselves to focus on a true work calling. We might have to push ourselves to stay on task some days, but the focus it holds in our lives should stem from the joy it brings us.
Hearing the early whispers of that calling starts with noticing the desires of your soul and when you feel most alive and why. If you stay in dialogue with God, your calling will grow more and more joyful with every step you make toward it. This is not a subtle feeling. When you do the work you are supposed to be doing, you feel an exhilarated connection to who you truly are.
THE GOAL: Doing Your Work Gives You Energy
What if doing your work fed you with energy instead of draining it? What if your work was highly inspiring instead of an obligation? How might that change your ability to enjoy your life experience?
We pursue a work calling so we can shift our days toward inspired and joyful living. Most, if not all, of that shift has to do with uncovering our gifts and using them to serve a greater cause.
I am intentionally using the word “uncovering” because it takes time to explore and find your gifts. We have to make the connection between what brings us joy and where we have talents (once properly developed) that the world needs.
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You know you have found a work calling when you no longer view your days off with anticipation. You should definitely be making time to rest, but you are doing that as part of the overall plan to increase and preserve your capacity. You are not using rest as an escape or break from labor. You are using it as a part of the natural rhythm to grow.
Think about the freedom that comes from this type of work. Many people think they will wait until the end of their lives to do the work they enjoy. They think they will wait until all their other financial needs have been met to focus on fulfillment. But that isn’t the sacred life experience our beliefs should be leading us to.
WORKING WHOLE: Reducing the Separation Between “Worktime” and “Playtime”
I can always tell when someone shifts to working whole. They don’t need to tell me that they feel a deeper connection to the work because I sense it in their energy. They seem different from who they were before. They are more present and authentic. They are braver and more vulnerable. They have a focus and clarity in their plans and are at ease with the uncertainty ahead. They are in full engagement with the experience of their lives. They are fulfilled by the pursuit of this joyful work.
Spiritually, I can feel the power of their extraordinary energy. Yet, in the human world I can see the results of their increased capacity to work. Tactically, they are actually logging more hours of work than others and therefore getting much more done. But they barely notice it because the work is feeding them energy.
They have reduced the separation between “worktime” and “playtime.” They find their work inspirations during their prayer or leisure time, which in some ways makes it worktime as well. They feel inspired to do extra tasks in the early morning, late at night, or on the weekends simply because they want to. They feel better after working because work is a source of energy not a drain. And they better prioritize rest because they know that fresh thinking is needed to chart the course.
THE PROBLEM: Living Without Joy
On the contrary, I know many people that are highly successful and exhausted. They have achieved success by conventional standards and are posed to continue that trajectory. Yet, their energy takes great effort to sustain. They have frequent highs and lows and never seem to be satisfied with the success they have. That is what living without joy does to our energy. Many of us get stuck here—measuring our results, but never being fulfilled.
Without joy, we feel stuck in our current careers. Many of our initial work callings start as side projects, volunteer efforts, or hobbies. This work has to be done outside of our paying jobs and requires that we find the time and energy to do additional work. Following those kinds of work callings are only possible when we are doing work that brings us joy.
Choosing the joyful living that comes from working whole seems like a no-brainer, but living this way is a daring choice. Like anything worth having, there will be obstacles in the way, so we have to be prepared to overcome them.
YOUR OBSTACLES: What Must You Overcome?
There is something stopping us from achieving our goals. In acting that is called the character’s “obstacle.” Our goals can be thwarted by another character, a circumstance in the storyline, or an internal conflict. The purpose of identifying the obstacles is so we can be better prepared to overcome them.
There are many things that stand in the way of living our beliefs. Each of us will struggle with different things at various times. But living the script of our beliefs allows us the awareness to identify obstacles and embrace the opportunity for growth that they inevitably bring.
The goal of your character is to live a full and meaningful life. To do that, you’ll have to commit to the daily process of weaving your beliefs into your life decisions.
We are attempting to live in a new show. But first, we have to stop living in the old show. Your old show may have been a drama or a thriller. It may have had you cast as the main character and been set in your comfortable bubble. Choosing to create and live in your new show will lead to a more fulfilled existence but getting there will create significant challenges and the need to realign many parts of your life.
Each single work calling will push us to walk further on our spiritual path. Along the way what we should be doing will be revealed to us, but also who we are and why we are living in this season of the show. Those revelations will invite us to live as the person we truly are, rather than accommodating who we thought we were supposed to be.
To be clear, the pursuit of fulfillment is a privilege. If you are struggling with a need for satisfaction and meaning in your work that means you are not struggling with your most basic needs for survival. It probably also means that you have a reasonable amount of security and belonging already. Those privileges alone are enough to inspire your character to give their highest service back to the world.
One of the biggest obstacles your character will face is the challenge of inviting contentment into life. Contentment is not an attribute our society seems to honor but something your character must embrace to stay on script.
Contentment goes against everything the human world has taught us about success. Yet, contentment is an essential part of joyful living. We have been led to believe that more is always better, but that idea robs us of the possibility of fulfillment. To be “full” is to be satisfied with what you have already.
DEFINING SUCCESS: Fulfilled Joyful Living
Prior to anchoring my life with my beliefs, I made most of my work decisions in the hope of becoming more “successful” and financially comfortable. Living our spiritual beliefs means that we don’t need to seek our identity and worth from outside sources. We can live complete and whole with a life anchored spiritually. But that doesn’t mean ignoring our worldly responsibilities. Bills still have to get paid to provide us shelter and providing the body with food is essential. Working toward a calling is not about ignoring our financial needs. It is doing the work it takes to cultivate an orientation toward contentment, which then paves the way to following our joy.
Would your character choose to run a race without knowing the distance or where the finish line is? It would make running the race extremely difficult because they wouldn’t know how much energy to put out at any given time. They wouldn’t know if they were close to the end and should be sprinting or if they had miles to go and should be conserving energy.
Working for a higher purpose demands that we decide where the finish line for our human needs is, so we can succeed in anchoring our lives in joy. Your character has to live with fulfilled joyful living as the only definition of success, so they must assess their lifestyle needs to use their time, money, and energy efficiently toward meeting that goal.
Our lifestyle needs are personal decisions and often fluctuate in different life stages. But you don’t want to spend more time and money maintaining a lifestyle than you actually need to live in joy and contentment. Your approach to consumption will impact your ability to pursue new and bolder work callings. That doesn’t mean we will all be satisfied with the same finish line—it just means that we all need to set one for ourselves.
What complicates our consumption needs is that many of us use material possessions and financial status symbols as a replacement for finding peace, meaning, or enjoyment elsewhere. Retail therapy is a real thing. We get an emotional jolt from purchasing a new item and that feeling can help us temporarily cope when living inauthentic or uninspired days.
But how does this impact the episodes of our lives? When your character is content, they can stop purchasing new things and save more money to invest in a business venture. They may be able to save for an unpaid sabbatical at their job or another degree. They may be able to take on a lower-paying apprenticeship to break into the field of work that brings them joy. These are the kind of decisions that intersect with the spiritual world and the human world.
Our soul will call us to joy,
but whether we are willing to follow it
sometimes depends on our human lifestyle.
SUCCESS: Arriving at a Place of Contentment
In a culture where we are always expected to want more, it is life changing to arrive at a place of contentment. The sooner we can get there, the freer we are to creatively redirect our resources and time. Your character will choose their best daily life experience over any generic expectations of what success has to be. The part of us that wants to live our episodes honoring the gift of life deeply desires to choose joyful days over enduring work for the sake of success.
Assess whether some of your lifestyle choices may be there to help you cope with what is not meaningful nor fulfilling in your life. Consider if you would need all that you have if you enjoyed your daily experience more.
Our human lives require money and material things. We cannot completely ignore that while walking a spiritual path. Yet the calling journey requires that we get comfortable with the idea that we can’t control everything, including our financial prosperity. We can’t guarantee that the business we are called to start will be an immediate financial success. We can’t guarantee that the new career path will accelerate our earning potential.
Satisfaction is a simple comparison of how much we have versus how much we think we need. Most of us have spent our lives striving to have more without ever trying to need less. Yet, that is the part of the equation that your character can control the most.
Failing to assess your lifestyle needs is an important obstacle to overcome. That is not to say that you will have to settle long term for your minimum bar. It only means that you will be free to make decisions based on what honors your life and leads you to joy.
You may still live and earn well above your minimum bar in the long run. Those working whole have a way of inadvertently generating abundance because they are effortlessly working more and at their highest potential. But that’s an outcome we can’t predict, nor do we want to live with our self-worth tied to it. Loving our days, meeting our needs, and putting meaningful work into the world will fulfill us regardless. Cultivating contentment empowers your character to play their role in your show perfectly.
©2019 by Kourtney Whitehead. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
Working Whole: How to Unite Your Spiritual Beliefs and Your Work to Live Fulfilled
by Kourtney Whitehead
Do you want more from work than just a paycheck or a title? Are you ready to manifest a work life rooted in joy, purpose, and contentment? Career expert Kourtney Whitehead will guide you on a self-discovery journey to bridge the gap between your spiritual life and your work, and help you bring intention and satisfaction to your professional life. In Working Whole, she shares eight principles that will free you to be inspired and joyful in your life and work callings. (Also available in Kindle format)
About the Author
Kourtney Whitehead's career has focused on helping people reach their work goals, from executive searches to counselling to career transitions. She's held leadership positions at top executive recruiting firms and consulting companies, and is a sought-after speaker and podcast guest. Visit her website at https://simplyservice.org/