One of my favorite things is to inspire people to create a life they love. But lately I’ve been wondering exactly what this means. What are the components of a life well-lived? What will it take for us to say with conviction that we love our lives?
Is it just a self-help pipe dream to aspire to live an exceptional life?
In pondering these questions, I noticed a big mistake that many of us make when we embark on this path. The problem is that we tend to focus most of our attention on creating a career we love, without stopping to think about all of the other things that might bring us fulfillment, many of which have absolutely nothing to do with our jobs.
My career as an author, speaker, researcher and yoga teacher is a direct result of me taking the time to figure out what I love to do, and how to make money doing it. I do a lot of checking in with myself to figure out if my current job (whatever that might be) is of the highest service to me and to the world. In fact, I’d argue that I’m borderline obsessed with this topic. It’s something that I think about every day – without fail. I thought about it while I was in grad school. I thought about it when I worked for an IT research company. I thought about it when I was an entrepreneur. And now I think about it in my current role as a researcher at Harvard Medical School.
I seem to constantly be asking myself:
“Is this what I’m supposed to be doing with my life?”
“What feels right and/or wrong about this job?”
“Should I be following a different path?”
I ask the Universe for signs, symbols, and messages to direct me. I ask to be given the perfect people, places, and opportunities to place me on the exact right path at the exact right time. I pray for guidance. I meditate. I read a shitload of career-oriented self-help books. I do personal development questionnaires. I journal. I join mastermind groups. I hire top-notch career coaches. I take in what seems like an endless onslaught of inspirational newsletters and videos.
When I stepped back for a moment and asked myself why I devote so much of my time to this topic, the answer surprised me. I realized that I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that if I can find a job that makes me happy, then I’ll be happy 100% of the time. But my erroneous thinking doesn’t stop there.
I’ve also realized that I use my career as an indication of my self-worth. @BethanyButzer
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In other words, I realized that while my motivation is driven to some extent by my desire to help others and be of service, there’s a bit of a hidden agenda behind what I’m doing – a shadow side if you will – that motivates my desire to succeed. Deep down inside, I feel like I’m not worthy if I’m not doing a job in which I’m extremely successful.
Put differently, I’ve made the mistake of thinking that I am my job. I’ve spent so much time trying to create a job I love, that I’ve sometimes forgotten about creating a life I love.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like I’m working eighty hour weeks and neglecting all of the other aspects of my life. It’s more insidious than that. Instead, it’s that many of the things that I do outside of my job – things like yoga, meditation, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, reading inspirational books – are largely geared toward helping me be successful at my career. I take care of myself so that my brain can function at its highest capacity so that I can be top notch at what I do.
There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this approach (at least not on the surface). But when I dig deeper, I see that I’m not looking after myself out of an internal knowing that I am already worthy regardless of my career – I’m looking after myself so that I can excel at my career. Almost everything that I do is related in one way or another to my desire to succeed at my job.
Lately I’ve been watching a series of videos about Vedanta, an ancient Indian system of philosophy. One of the Vedantic teachings that really struck a chord with me is this idea: I am not what I experience. And whatever I am not, I am free from. In other words, I am not my job. If for some reason my PhD was magically erased from my history, or Harvard suddenly disappeared from my resume, my True Self would still exist. I would still be amazing and worthy and good enough.
I’ve come to realize that one of my purposes in this life is to find a balance between the ambitious, achievement-oriented aspect of my personality and the deep and true part of me that knows that my internal happiness can never come from my external success. In all likelihood, there will always be aspects of my job that I dislike – no matter what I’m doing.
Most importantly, I can’t rely on my job to make me happy. I need to develop a deep, experiential knowledge of the fact that my True Nature is happiness. I’m not going to find this bliss in any self-help book or e-newsletter or fad of the week. Instead of seeking it from the outside, I need to go within.
I’m going to try to expand my view from creating a job I love to creating a life I love. And I think one of the first steps is to find the love that already exists inside.
Care to join me?
Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, researcher, and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love. Check out her book, The Antidepressant Antidote, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and join her whole-self health revolution.
If you’d like tips on how to create a life you love, plus some personal instruction from Bethany, check out her online course, Creating A Life You Love: Find Your Passion, Live Your Purpose and Create Financial Freedom.
*Image courtesy of Mark Sebastian.April 20, 2014