Why is this important?
All of us are born with most aspects of our lives already established for us. Our economic status, cultural identity, personality, core values and our customs are waiting for us when we are born. For many people, this predetermined life is lived without question all through life. This naturally extends to our work, our relationships, and how we view the world.
What can happen?
Because all of this has been decided for us, most of us live our lives on autopilot. When it comes to our work, we often take the same jobs as our parents did. Or perhaps we just take their philosophy about our work. We may have jobs only to support our families, with no thought given to whether the work makes us happy or not. We may get used to making lots of money, and soon we get into so much debt we think there is no way out except through promotion and upward movement to make even more money. We believe we will get out of debt someday, and then finally do something we enjoy more. We may stick to jobs we dislike because of fear that others, especially our loved ones, might leave us or reject us if we seek more joyful work. Worse yet, we feel internal guilt and selfishness for wanting more out of our work life.
Where do you stand?
A famous Japanese proverb says vision without action is a daydream and action without vision is a nightmare. Spiritual leader Gandhi Mohandas believed you must be the change you want to see in the world.
So how about you?
What change do you want to see in the world? Is this reflected in your work and what you do each and every day? Is your work joyful, and full of meaning?
Does your reason for doing this work make sense to you?
Do you leap out of bed in the morning, tripping over yourself to get dressed because you are so excited to start working? If not, read on....
How do you get started?
While I think the world would be a better place if all did the work we love, this is still a challenge for many people. It all starts with a Purpose. While I think it would be wonderful if every one of us had a special purpose like Mother Theresa did, the special purpose will always be different for each person.
There are lots of things in the world that disturb me deeply.
It bothers me that in many communities we have lost that sense of place and togetherness.
It saddens me that over 20,000 people a day die of starvation.
It frustrates me that in America so many people do not have access, or can't afford proper health care.
In fact, I have many personal missions for making this world a better place, and that I would like to spend my life pursuing. But I am also realistic—I know that, to truly make a difference, one must choose and focus on a single cause that motivates them to get up in the morning.
For the second half of my life, I have chosen to focus on helping people over 40 find more joy in their work. It's a niche I have studied and experienced and I feel I can make a contribution.
So I spend my time trying to improve the quality of life for one person at a time by helping them to do more of what they love with regards to their work.
Can you come up with a core niche you are passionate about?
The challenges you will encounter
As you define and pursue your purpose in your life and your work, you will be lonely at times. You will find yourself surrounded by many people just like you who are simply working at jobs without desire or passion. They are just working for a paycheck. While this is important, it is not sufficient after we turn forty.
After forty, it is critical to find a way, not just to survive, but to thrive, and to feel the excitement about each work day. This is a sensation worth feeling. It will leave you breathless and will influence everyone around you.
The other day, I spoke to a street artist in San Francisco who spends his days spray painting murals that he sells for five dollars each. As I watched him create his masterpiece, it occurred to me that while his work was not MY passion, I was inspired just watching his joy as he worked.
How to defeat the critics
First, define your Purpose. Then tell everyone you meet about it. This will help to reinforce your path. Then plan to spend the majority of your day focused on activities aligned with your purpose.
This is the solution—it's simple but it requires discipline, courage and what some might perceive as great risk. In mid-life, society encourages those over forty to be secure and safe.
Your time is now!
After forty, it is a great risk to your life and to those around you NOT to do what you love. This is the time to take great risks and gather the courage to break free of your predetermined life. This is the time to create more joy and meaning in your life.
The shortcut to a happy life is to define your Purpose and carry it out with enthusiasm and vigor!
You will never look back and, along the way, you'll inspire others to do the same.
As always, I'll be cheering you on as you go.
Craig Nathanson is the author of P Is For Perfect: Your Perfect Vocational Day and a coaching expert who works with people over forty. Craig's new E-book, Discover and live your passion 365 days a year is a workshop in a box designed to help busy adults go insane with their work. Craig's systematic approach, the trademark "Ten P" process,'' helps people break free and move toward the work they love. Visit Craig's online community at http://www.thevocationalcoach.com where you can take a class, get more ideas through Craig Nathanson's books and CD's, get some private coaching over the phone or read other stories of mid-life change and renewal.
Craig lives in Fairfax, California. You can reach him at 415-457-0550 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publish this article: How to discover purpose in your life and your work