When Pursuing Your Calling Takes an Ugly Turn
My journey through the dark.
I’m not exactly sure what happened, it was sort of a combination of things. Like a perfect storm of crap that I didn't anticipate. It was ugly and I let it stop me from doing the thing I loved so much, my work.
I'm one of those people who found her calling and can make a living doing it. This doesn't happen for everyone so I feel very fortunate. And it makes me feel unstoppable. So when this dark time showed up I was caught off guard. I think that's an understatement but that's the best I've got.
My work still called to me but I couldn’t engage with it (couldn’t or wouldn’t?). I just stared at my computer screen, finding any excuse to not do the work I felt so passionate about and was so committed to.
I had enough energy to keep my current clients going but that was about it. Though in hindsight, it’s really them that kept me going.
There was a voice inside that was screaming at me to "get your shit together and get back to work!". But another voice was telling me this was important and I needed to pay attention and give myself time to work it out. I think both voices were right in their own way.
It feels all too familiar, but not.
It wasn’t the first time I’d had this feeling about work. But this time it was different. Before, when I was an employee, I didn’t have any choice but to show up no matter how I felt. So some days that’s all I did. I showed up, punched the clock, and then punched out as soon as I could. It was the only way I could survive. And, eventually, I had to punch out for good.
Now I'm my own boss so nobody's expecting me to show up but me. It’s far too easy to not do the work when nobody’s really counting on you. And it makes the struggle so much harder.
The harsh truth we don't talk about.
I knew starting my own business would be challenging. But I never imagined I would lose energy or momentum like this. I believed that passion for my work would always keep me going. Turns out, I was wrong.
No matter how much joy you get from your work, no matter how strong the calling, no matter how rewarding and fulfilling the work is, there will still come a time when it gets hard, really really hard.
But it's not the kind of hard where you're struggling to solve a tangible problem. It's hard because it's all in your head. You feel frozen in place. You struggle to unravel the nasty thoughts that are holding you back. And those nasty thoughts will get amplified because you think it's not supposed to be this way.
We’ve been told that pursuing your passion or doing work we love means the work is easy and fun and full of rainbows and unicorns. So when things get hard we question ourselves and wonder if we've made the right choice.
It's not about easy, it's about what's right.
I used to struggle because my work wasn’t rewarding enough, robbed me of all my energy, and kept me from doing things I loved. I used to struggle because my work was out of alignment with my values and sense of integrity. I used to struggle because the work was about someone else's goals and not my own.
Now, I struggle because the work calls to me, it energizes me, and the goals are my own. I never want to just punch the clock because I'm on a mission, my mission. This struggle feels harder because the work matters so much. But this struggle is also worth it.
When we talk about doing work that you love it doesn't mean finding the easy path. It's about finding the right path. The one that makes you proud of the hard work because you’re making a difference. The one that’s rewarding because it challenges you in positive ways. The one where all the hard work is worth it because you love what you do and how you do it.
Do you struggle because your work isn’t fulfilling or rewarding enough? Are there too many days when you just punch the clock? And even more days when you give it everything you've got only to feel depleted because it's not giving enough back?
So, why don't you change it? Maybe you don't know where to start or you aren't sure what you want. And maybe you're worried it will just mean exchanging one struggle for another.
Invite the struggle.
I have good and bad news for you - there will be struggle no matter what you do because that's part of life. But not all struggle is equal.
When you struggle for survival it's just struggle.
When you struggle for a purpose you find joy and fulfillment.
Don’t be fooled by the myth of the perfect job being the one where work doesn’t feel like work. But also, don’t settle for what you have now because you’re afraid the work to change will be too hard.
You’re already doing hard work. Why not direct your energy into doing hard work that has a purpose? Do work that makes you feel proud, that's fulfilling and rewarding, and that matters to you.
What’s standing in your way? My guess is just you.