Does everyone else think you have it all, while you secretly long for more meaning and fulfillment in your life?
Do you have a nagging feeling that you could be doing so much more, using your gifts and talents to make a meaningful contribution to the world?
I know a lot of women who have spent their whole lives putting their own dreams aside while they are tending to families and pursuing successful careers. They are pretty happy with their lives, but wonder what would happen if they put themselves first and went for a greater vision. This is upsetting because I believe we’re here for a reason that’s bigger than ourselves and goes beyond doing things to please others.
If you find yourself in this position, believe me, I get it. That was me just a short couple of years ago.
Over the last few years, I experienced a crisis of the soul in my teaching career. I accepted a promotion that I knew in my heart was wrong for me. Even though everyone told me that they needed me and I was the right person for the job, I was feeling bored and unfulfilled. I didn’t feel that I was using my real talents or making a difference in the world. It made me realize how far off my true path I’d gone.
I stayed stuck in that mistake for four long years. I just couldn’t figure out how to move out of it. Finally I had to face the ultimate question: Should I stay or should I go? Was I ready to walk away from the law school and take a chance on my own business as a life coach? Or should I stay and try in reinvent my teaching life to be more in alignment with my new vision of the contribution I wanted to make to the world?
It was only with the help of some terrific coaches that I came to the conclusion that I could have it all! I got involved with a group of student who wanted to work on women’s rights, an issue that was in total alignment with my passions. Together, we created a new Gender Justice Project and I am going back to teaching — work that I really love.
I learned so much going through my own career transformation that I just had to figure out a way to help other women going through the same thing. That is why I decided to start offering workshops and retreats to help people re-align with what matters most to them in their lives and careers. We all have to go through our own process, but I will be there to hold your hand and share some lessons I learned along the way.
For some people, the process may lead to a total career shift. For others, it may be possible to re-envision and re-invent their current job or business. In any case, you have to get started somewhere, and I believe that there are plenty of steps you can take to make your work more meaningful while you contemplate the next chapter.
We all know that what you focus on expands. That is why I wrote this guide. Spend a few minutes each day focusing on the fun and fulfillment you want in your work, and watch what happens. You don’t have to know the outcome. Just take action and be open to synchronicities.
These steps may sound simple, but make no mistake, they can make a meaningful difference in your everyday happiness. They may also lead you on a path of reinvention that will totally change your life.
So what are you waiting for, let’s get started!
Step 1: Start your day with vision and conscious intention.
Would you be surprised to learn that most successful people spend time every day doing something you did as a child? That’s right, they use the power of their imaginations to visualize themselves achieving their goals.
Successful business tycoons envision themselves closing the deal. Musicians imagine a perfect performance, and the standing ovation they receive from the audience. Gymnasts practice the perfect routine in their mind, and envision themselves walking to the podium for the gold medal.
The amazing thing is that science confirms that this kind of imaginary thinking works. There is documented evidence that mentally practicing your basketball shot in your mind exerts a powerful influence on the muscle memory in your body. That is why athletes who have been sidelined by an injury are able to get back in the game almost immediately after they are healed.
Napoleon Hill first revealed this secret in his famous book Think and Grow Rich, which studied the habits of the 100 most successful people in America. He was amazed to learn that the formula for success could be boiled down to three basic steps:
- Create a clear vision of what you want to achieve. Imagine it not as something you wish to attain in the future, but as present, vivid reality. Use your senses to see, hear, and feel what that moment will be like.
- Once you have a clear vision, write out a conscious intention or affirmation. This is simply a positive, powerful, declarative statement of your goal, stated in the present tense – as if it is already happening.
- Commit to taking action that is congruent with the vision. This is the step that is missing in many law of attraction formulas. Yes, thoughts and feelings can create reality. But you have to help it along by taking action in the direction of your dreams.
Here is an easy way to try it out with only 10 minutes a day.
I want you to set your alarm clock 10 minutes early. As you awake, imagine yourself in a special place where you feel connected to the universal flow of energy. Envision yourself experiencing a perfect day at work. Feel what it would be like to be in total alignment of what you are doing, and the sense of satisfaction you will feel when you accomplish your goals. Tap into your inner guidance and imagine the day unfolding perfectly in alignment with your vision.
Here is an example. Let’s say you have a big meeting coming up, and you really care about the outcome. Envision yourself sitting in the meeting, feeling strong and confident, expressing yourself with ease and power. Imagine people getting excited about your ideas, and joining you in creating the most perfect outcome. Everyone is on board, and you all go out to celebrate after work with a glass of wine.
Now turn that vision into an intention. Maybe something like this: “I lead with strength and confidence, expressing myself with ease and power, creating a meaningful process where people get excited about my ideas and join with me in reaching the best decision.”
Finally, what are three action steps that you need to take to turn this vision into reality? Do you need to provide people with more information, create an agenda, mobilize your allies, or rehearse your arguments?
I recommend that you write down your vision, intention, and three main action steps and take them with you. Here is a list of questions you might want to use to help you through the process.
- Out of all the things happening at work today, what do I care most about?
- What would I like to see happen?
- What would make this fun and fulfilling?
- Who would I like to have on my side?
- What would be the best and highest outcome from my perspective?
- What would make me feel that I have made a meaningful contribution?
- What do I envision as the best and highest outcome?
- Who do I need to be and what do I need to do to achieve that outcome?
- How do I want to feel at the end of the work day?
You get the picture. This is your opportunity to create the kind of day you want to experience — and it can be done in only 10 minutes before you even get out of bed! Our thoughts and beliefs literally create our reality, so why not create more fun, satisfaction, and fulfillment in your life?
Step 2: Figure out your greatest gifts and increase the time you spend working in your “zone of genius.”
Most of us are great at our jobs. But that doesn’t guarantee that we love what we are doing.
Think about something that you love doing so much that you lose track of time when you are doing it. You would gladly do this activity all day for free. Some people call this being “in the flow.” Gay Hendricks, in his life-changing book The Big Leap, calls it operating in your “zone of genius.”
Hendricks defined four levels of activities that humans operate in:
- The Zone of Incompetence — activities that we’re not good at and that others can do a lot better.
- The Zone of Competence — activities that we are competent at but that other can do just as well.
- The Zone of Excellence — activities that we do extremely well, and where our bosses, family, and friends would like us to stay.
- The Zone of Genius — activities that we are uniquely suited to do, that draw upon our special gifts and strengths.
It is easy to be seduced into the zone of excellence. It gives us the outward appearance and trappings of success, and makes the people around us happy. The trouble is, a piece of our soul will die if we stay in that zone for too long.
Chances are, if you are feeling stuck and unfulfilled in your job, you are trapped in your zone of excellence. You may not be able to break out all at once, but you can gradually expand the amount of time your spend working in your zone of genius.
Start by making a list of all the activities you engage in on your job. Using colored markers, put a great big circle around all of the activities that fall within your zone of genius. These are the activities you love doing, that make the time pass so quickly you almost forget that you are working.
Next, cross out the activities that are in your zone of competence (or incompetence). These are the activities that are not adding value to your job. Find a way to get them off your plate by delegating them to somebody who can do them just as well, if not better.
Now, when you are making your “to-do” list in the morning, schedule as much time as you can working on activities in your zone of genius. The rest can be spent in your zone of excellence, doing the things you have always done well.
This is a win-win strategy for you and your employer or business. Gradually, you will find your work shifting in the direction where you can make your greatest contribution. And you will feel much happier and more fulfilled in the meantime.
Step 3. Find a way to give back.
Did you know that when you make a donation to charity, your brain has the same response it has to chocolate or sex? Many studies have established that giving back has a positive impact on health and happiness. People who volunteer have a 22% lower mortality rate than non-volunteers, along with higher levels of self-esteem.
In fact, volunteering has been credited with everything from reducing stress and depression, increasing self-confidence, fostering connection, and providing a sense of purpose.
If you are in a helping profession, you might feel that already have a positive impact on the clients you serve. Yet, for many of us, our dreams of making a difference in the world go far beyond the bounds of our ordinary work day.
Think about what you value most in the world. Do you love to teach and mentor others? Do you care about the plight of abandoned animals? Does your heart go out to suffering refugees? Do you want to see an end to poverty, hunger, and domestic violence? Are you worried about global warming and the future of the planet? Would you like to see more art in the schools?
Even if your job is not in a helping profession, the workplace provides a perfect platform for creating a legacy for the next generation. Here are three simple ways to “give back” on the job, cultivate community, and make the workplace more meaningful for all involved.
1. Find someone to mentor.
By the time you get to this stage in your career, you have accumulated a ton of knowledge and experience. Why not pass that wisdom along to the next generation?
You may not have official responsibilities for mentoring in your workplace, but I bet you can find a junior colleague who is eager to get your time and attention. If not at your own workplace, there are lots of mentoring opportunities available in non-profit organizations, or at your local high school or college.
One of the best parts if mentoring is that it makes you take stock and appreciate everything you have learned over the course of your career. It may even give you hints for a new direction to put all of that acquired wisdom to use.
2. Get your workplace involved in a cause that you care about.
There are charity bike rides, walkathons, and races for virtually every cause on the planet. Organize a team to participate in one of these events, and get out there to train and help raise funds. If you don’t like team events, you could organize a fund-raising auction or dinner party. You could even do it all virtually by organizing an online crowd-funding event like “Go Fund Me.” However you conceive your project, you will receive the health and happiness benefits of giving — and you might even have fun in the process.
3. Organize a day of community service.
In our hectic lives, it is easy to get disconnected from the communities where we live and work. A company day of service is a great way to break down these barriers and get you involved in meaningful interaction with the people in your community.
There are many ways to get involved in community service. I have seen groups from organizations go out to clean up the local park, paint the classrooms at a neighborhood school, or participate in building a house with Habitat for Humanity. At our law school, we went out into the community to provide free legal services to poor neighborhoods. You can read to kids at the local library, cuddle with premies at the local hospital, or spend time talking to elderly people in nursing homes.
There are so many ways to give back, and every time you do, it will boost your fun and fulfillment on the job. Use your imagination and reach out to your colleagues for help and ideas. The energy your project will generate is sure to have positive reverberations throughout the organization. And it may lead you in the direction of your next career move.
Now it is up to you. You can stay stuck in a bad situation for several years like I did, or you can start taking small steps today to create more fun and fulfilment in your life. These steps may seem simple, but like a pebble thrown into a pond, they will create a ripple effect that will ultimately lead to a more fulfilling life.
In his famous book The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters, Andy Andrews described how a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the planet sets forces in motion which could eventually start a hurricane on the other side of the globe. Andrews went on to say,
“You have been created in order that you might make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world.”
I wish you much love and happiness on your journey. I can’t wait to see what you and the Universe co-create for the highest good of all.