Why do I care so much about doing work that lights you up?

Let me tell you a story.

I knew I loved writing from a young age but was discouraged from pursuing writing as a career. I also always loved traveling but wasn’t sure how to support myself through travel. I fell in love with psychology as a teenager when I devoured every book I could trying to heal myself from bulimia. I went on to study psychology and outdoor education in undergrad. I knew I wanted to help people who were struggling with disordered thinking but I didn’t want to do it in an office. I liked the idea of helping people improve their state of being through outdoor activities. Being active outdoors helps bring out our true nature and gives us a sense of freedom. I worked as a hiking guide for five months, and then went on to work as an assistant track and cross-country coach and eventually moved into teaching career and college preparation.

Along the way, I pursued my Master’s degree in International and Intercultural Communication. I coached multi-cultural students as a career preparation teacher for a large non-profit and then coached teachers as a Manager of Youth Programs. I also conducted professional development trainings for partner organizations and community members. I enjoyed helping people align their talents, interests, strengths, and skills with their desired career and with how they worked best. As I moved up the ladder at the non-profit, I discovered I wanted to do more coaching and less of the administrative tasks (I wanted more freedom and authenticity). It was a difficult decision to leave as I had advanced in my career and leaving a well-paid job and all the external indicators of success seemed crazy. Deep down, I knew I wanted more than what a 9-5 could offer me.

What finally got me to leave was a pervading sense of dissatisfaction. It got to the point where even vacations weren’t all that much help. I had lost my mojo. We spend a third of our lives working so it makes sense that if we are deeply unhappy at work, it is going to creep over into other areas of our lives. Maybe we start to gain weight or we start drinking more or we start spending more money. There is almost always some form of compensation happening.

What happened to me is I felt myself turning into a zombie. I was going through the motions and I didn’t feel alive. I didn’t see how continuing to advance in my career or simply working for another company would change that. So I took extreme measures. I quit and moved to Villahermosa, Mexico to teach at an international school. I don’t recommend this course of action. While I wanted a change, when it reached the breaking point, instead of connecting with a bigger vision for my life, I chose to cut and run. It sounded exciting and I love new adventures. That is great but when this is done without a connection to the bigger purpose of who we are and what we are here to do, it can feel like a wild goose chase. Instead of preparing an exit plan, I chose the escape route.

Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow.

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