When I Grow Up …

November 4, 2012

Somehow it seems that signs come in three’s… Earlier this week I was reading an article by HBR blogger Umair Haque titled “How to let your purpose find you”; then later at lunch the same week I sat at a table with four other colleagues and the discussion strangely veered into a different direction than the normal gripe-fest that tends to happen over lunch. One of the people at the table asked a simple question “if you weren’t working in the ‘corporate world’ what would you have been doing instead?” Thirdly I had a conversation with a friend who shared with me her disappointment with her boss during a career development conversation. Her boss told her and I quote “don’t look for meaning and happiness at work; focus on your family life that’s what’s real, that’s where you’re true happiness should be”. I’m normally one to see connection in everything; the mundane and the complex everything is interrelated (in my mind at least!) and linking these three occurrences got me revved to write a post related to the holy quest of meaning, purpose and passion in our lives and careers.

Going back to the earlier question the other people at the table each had their own response (that they were quite reluctant to share I must add) but what really surprised me was that their “dream” career choices were all related to music, dance, drama etc. Knowing these individuals and how they come across day to day I wouldn’t have pegged them as interested in the arts at all, but there goes my judgment out the window. This goes to show the hidden layers people have of their selves and what they choose to share with the outer world and what they choose to keep buried within them. The entire lunch group shared that they grew up in very conservative families where choosing a career in the arts was completely out of the question. Good children grow up to work in steady, stable jobs, be punctual, courteous to their bosses, complete their daily work and go home. One of them even stated “if I ever could do something else and that would be absolutely impossible” before sharing that she would have loved to play piano professionally; with a deep sigh of regret.

I’m a realist and I’m not saying everyone can pull on a cape and just throw caution to the wind and follow their dream career. I get it. I understand the times we live in have placed a lot of people in a tough spot; do you follow your bliss and create a meaningful existence or settle for the pay check? During the course of the last year or two the number of times I’ve heard “I’m just doing this for the pay check”; “it’s just a job, pays the rent”; “I can’t rock the boat I need a steady job”. This sense has been exponentially magnified by the economic conditions we are experiencing. Reality hit hard when Gen Y’ers were amongst those choosing inertia and the failed status quo. Come on! What happened to you guys??

All of this got me thinking about myself and where my career path has taken me. I can’t say every step of the way was meaningful or part of a plan but I have learned A LOT from each and every experience. Yes there were times when I felt “where’s the meaning behind any of this?” There were times when I felt I was fulfilling someone else’s vision and not mine. There are still times where I feel I can be and do much more than I actually think or even know and that even scares me a little. However I know my life as a whole has meaning. I approach every encounter with the hope of making a difference in someone’s day. Be it a smile. Lending a hand to a colleague. Slowing down to appreciate my baby girl’s attempts at walking. I bring my whole self to work. I can’t leave part of me out. I love challenging others beliefs about their potential and discussing leadership models and management theories and writing about these experiences. I don’t always get a chance to experience that in my day-to-day 9 to 5 but I make sure I fill my cup with whatever adds meaning to me and fulfills me in my day. I research, read, write, debate, discuss, do whatever I need to add that “meaning” to what I do at work. I’ve always been a pragmatic realist and I wouldn’t necessarily promote an all or nothing approach. I believe in making meaning of wherever we are right now. Taking full responsibility and acknowledging where we are and why. At a time when I was doubting whether a certain career move was right for me or not a slew of events happened in my personal life that made me ever so grateful for the job I had. I looked at that job with new eyes. Eyes of gratitude. It also made me bring my mojo to work and not leave it in the parking lot because this role wasn’t part of my plan. Sometimes our best made plans take very different turns and we need to be flexible enough to see what’s in store for us.

Which side are you on? Is it an all-or-nothing approach? Can we find meaning in the now wherever that may be?

Photo credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kelly November 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Love this post ! It speaks to the quote and my belief that we must “blossom where we are” and stop blaming and looking for greener grasses ! In our marriages, careers, etc. we are only responsible for ourselves and in “blossoming” being all we can be in the moment, in our current situation we do change the lives around us and in turn change the situation !! “BLOSSOM WHERE YOU ARE!”…………….you might just be closer to your “dream” life than you know !


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