“Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life,” is a mantra I’d aspired to since I was a child but couldn’t understand until in recent years. The idea of working a job that I loved seemed far-fetched when I’d spent most of my young adult life hustling to get into a prestigious university, only to end up in a soul-sucking office job because the society I grew up in conditioned me to believe it was the “right” next step in my career.
It wasn’t until I gathered up the guts to leave my corporate life behind and design a career that was aligned with my dreams that I truly understood how much we hold ourselves back from what we want the most in life out of fear that we won’t get it.
When asked what they want to be when they grow up, children usually mention firefighters, teachers, astronauts, doctors, police, and professional athletes – the kind of roles associated with heroism, wisdom, and influence. Yet, the most common jobs in America are retail salespeople, cashiers, fast food workers, and aides – a far cry from the childhood dreams of most citizens.
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The question that begs to be asked is, why are so many people not living out their dreams? Perhaps they believed they didn’t have the time, money, or willpower to pursue what they really wanted. Or perhaps, they took whatever job helped them pay their bills for the month (or what other people told them was the best option) and eventually forgot to ask themselves why they’d settled.
Each one of us has dreams, ambitions, and things we want to accomplish in this lifetime. The problem is, most people aren’t carving out the time and space to understand their purpose or calling in their career. About 900 million people around the world feel unfulfilled in their daily lives and 70% of working Americans are unhappy in their current job. Similarly, even though having a purpose can increase your lifespan, only 25% of people feel certain they knew the purpose of life. The rest either said they were unsure or didn’t know.
As children, most of us had extraordinary dreams and boundless ambition. So how can we bring that back to life, and pursue our true calling rather than a career that doesn’t fulfill us?
How I Found My Calling
When I decided to follow my calling to empower visionary leaders to tell authentic stories that connect them with their audience, increase their revenue, and leave a lasting legacy, I got back into the driver’s seat of my life. I created a business by my own design that would allow me to work from anywhere in the world, have more time to dedicate to my passion and loved ones, earn uncapped amounts of income, and have an impact on people’s lives.
My work with helping people unblock their subconscious fears and destructive patterns so they can discover their deeper “why” and build a brand and life of purpose has shown me first hand that most people don’t allow themselves to admit what they really want to do. If they did, they’d have to face the disappointment of not having what their heart longs for. So they settle with spending their days bored, miserable, and waiting for the next weekend or paycheck.
I used to live like that, too. I once worked for a top advertising firm in New York City. It was a prestigious job with a decent market-rate salary and benefits. However, I felt unfulfilled and empty. I knew that this job wasn’t my calling nor what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Soon after the excitement of having a “cool” job that my peers approved of wore off, it started to feel like a 12-hour-a-day chore. One day, after a domino of upsetting events happened over the course of just a few months – including my grandfather dying, my boyfriend breaking up with me on my birthday, not getting a promotion I was anticipating, and having my already expensive rent skyrocket overnight – I walked through the front doors and felt the unsettling and uncomfortable realization that I’d become a cog within a machine, with no autonomy or passion.
I, like many others, was essentially sleepwalking through life. I mindlessly went through my daily routines without considering the bigger picture. I lived my life on autopilot, simply dealing with the doldrums of everyday life. I spent so much time filling my schedule with as much busywork as possible that I never had time to sit down and think. I never gave myself the opportunity to consider what I might want to change.
I knew I couldn’t be the only one who felt this way.
I deeply wanted to find a connection, so I began a new project. I wanted to prove that I could travel the world solely through couch surfing with connections I’ve made. Most travelers stay in hotels or Airbnbs, but how exciting would it have been to only stay in the homes of friends, friends of friends, or even people I met on the road?
Over the course of a year, I traveled to 20+ countries and interviewed hundreds of people through this social experiment. I listened to the stories of people all over the world and documented the entire process. This experiment led me into my true calling: telling stories and helping others tell their authentic story into their calling.
What Are You Doing With Your Life?
A lot of people get so hung up on our expectations for what life should be like, and instead default to following the path society sets out for them. They may even be aware of their dissatisfaction enough to ask if there’s more to life than what they already have, yet few actually do something about it. The good news is, the moment you decide to take action and find your calling, living your dream life is easier than you think
You may ask yourself the following questions:
1. When I die, will my work make any difference in the world that I live in?
2. Am I living life to my fullest potential?
3. If I continue my current working habits, what will be the relationship I have with my spouse, family, or future child?
How many of us think like this but never act on it? Answering these questions will help you determine what you truly want in life.
Following Your Calling
In my extensive travels around the world, I’ve met many entrepreneurs who left their career to follow their calling. It wasn’t an easy decision by any measure, but one which ultimately transformed their lives.
Answering your calling feels like waking up from a dream. You open yourself to brand new possibilities you never once considered. You become more aware and in tune with life and all of its mysteries and glories.
Most importantly, answering your calling allows you to live life the way you’ve always wanted. The majority of Americans, including my former self, see their job as a means to an end. Your 9-to-5 is simply the place you go because you have to. You trudge through five weekdays of soul-crushing work for a quick two-day relief. Repeat this for about 40 years until you retire.
Finding your purpose will give you something to look forward to every day. It will give you the resilience needed to push through hard times, the compass to guide your path, and the perspective to determine what’s meaningful in life.
If there’s one takeaway from this article, it’s this: we only have one life, and it’s our choice to make it fulfilling and joyful. The decisions we make now can affect tomorrow, next week, and even many decades down the road.
We can choose to be passive and let life pass us by, or to be active and strive to make an important difference. Determining your purpose is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. The keys to your future are in your hands. Now one question remains: what will you do with this power?
Originally published in Forbes.
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