Many of us spend our time chasing after the right college, the right internship, the right job, only to turn around one day and say, “Well, if I did everything right, why does is still feel wrong?”
Why do we get stuck on this hamster wheel of working harder and harder, but not feeling like any of it matters?
The problem starts when we allow other people to define for us what success looks like, and that means all too often that we are chasing someone else’s ideas of success. The truth is that you can’t be insatiably hungry for someone else’s goals, and until we stop and consider what our own version of success is, we aren’t going to feel connected to that calling.
We all need four things in order to feel like our work matters, and those four things roll up into one very important feeling. First, we need a calling, something that is bigger than ourselves whether it is curing cancer or buying a beach house, it has to speak to our souls. Second, we need to feel that our daily work has some connection to serving that calling, so that we know why we, in this box, in this division, in this organizational chart matter. Third, we have to see how our work is making a contribution to the lifestyle we want to live, the career trajectory we want to build, and the values we want to manifest. Finally, we need to have some amount of control over the connection and contribution that our work gives to our calling. When we have these things, we are in consonance.
When we are in consonance, the “what we do” matches the “who we are.” It gives us alignment and flow, and allows us to be the fullest versions of our holistic selves both at work and at home. It allows us to find our fundamental state of leadership, so that we can achieve great things on behalf of the people we love and the causes we hold dear.
Actually, we have to all four elements, at least a little, but at every age and every life stage, the amounts of each that you want and need will differ. For example, as a young idealist working on a political campaign, I was deep into the calling of this candidate whom I revered, but I had no connection because I was 21 years old and fetching coffee all day. The work contributed nothing to my bank account but everything to my future career prospects. Yet, I had precious little control. And, that was perfect for me then. Now, in mid-life, with aging parents and young kids, I couldn’t possible work in a job that gave me no connection or control, because the sacrifice of time is where my pain points lie more sharply.