What is so natural to you that it is like breathing? What aspect of yourself, which behavior, skill, activity, talent, is so part of you that you could not imagine yourself without it?
Answer this question and you could make yourself so much happier and successful, ignore it and you could be making yourself and those around you miserable.
This is something I have been pondering since my recent trip to SOBCon. Something strange happens when Terry Starbucker and I get together. It seems we have an unwritten rule that all our conversations must in some way fix the world. This was one of our many short but deep conversations.
Why is this question important to you and your productivity (maybe, life)?
Find Your Purpose, Discover Your Joy
In striving to succeed, day to day or for long term goals, we overlook what comes naturally to us. It’s easy to dismiss what we find easy, natural and fun. Many of us are raised to believe that work should be hard.
“No pain, no gain”.
Sorry, but that is rubbish.
There is no rule that we should suffer. No law that you can only spend your days waiting for a whistle to blow at 5.30pm.
Do What Comes Natural
If you look around, you will find the people who are most happy in their work and lives are the people who are in flow. They do what comes naturally. You might say they have a “gift”, or you might just think they are happy that their work is what they love to do. Or perhaps they don’t work, and they spend their leisure time doing whatever brings them the most joy?
My Mum is a natural at nurturing people. She nurtures regardless, whether people want nurturing or not. So she has spent most of her working life looking after people, from special needs schools to residential homes for people with learning difficulties. The times when she has deviated from being in a caring role she has been miserable.
Nobody that knows my mother would ever think of her not trying to help, comfort, or simply feed someone. It’s in her nature that if there is not someone around who needs some care she will go looking. That’s what she does.
Now we should not be tricked into thinking that people are given one role in life and that is what they have to stick to.
My Dad has had three careers, and excelled at all of them. His first career as a printer he did to please his own father. What seemed to suit him best though was when he was rescuing folks from fires and mangled cars.
Knowing he was constantly putting himself at risk scarred us all witless. I still can’t understand what malfunctions in a persons brain that allows them to run into danger when everyone else is screaming away in the other direction, but we are all proud of him that he did it, and did so well at it.
My brother stuck to an office job for a long time until one day he couldn’t take any more. Next thing we knew he had moved down to London and enrolled at a guitar institute. Rocking out in front of huge crowds of adoring, sweaty music fans is what brings him joy, and he is visibly more at home now than he ever was.
All of them do, or did, what came naturally to their personalities. They didn’t just get handed their dream role of course, and it took my Dad thirty some years to find his purpose. The point is there is something you are meant to be involved in that just fits.
Finding What You Were Meant to Do
- What brings you joy?
- Can you identify something in your personality that is “so you”?
- Are there things you find yourself doing almost subconsciously?
These are potential candidates. You might not see the traits as fundamental, or obviously lead to a career or income, but they will hint at what you are meant to be doing.
Liz Strauss is a natural connector. She connects people and it just happens when she is around. For Liz it is not “doing”, it is “being”. Through her career I am sure whatever her role on paper, I bet she has been connecting people. Of course she would create something like SOBCon.
For many of us, I think deep down we know what we are meant to be doing. We just fight it or fear making the changes necessary to go with it. My brother spent many years in a job just paying the bills. He was in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing. He was good at his job and conscientious, but it was hardly his ambition.When he is on stage rocking out his guitar he comes alive.
Others, like myself, find it a little harder to discover what we are meant to do.
Until I left school I had planned to be some sort of cartoonist or illustrator. I quickly realized though that while I liked to doodle, I didn’t like it enough to put in the hard graft to be good enough to earn a decent living. At the same time I had decided I could not afford to go to University either. I was “good with computers” and decided to do that.
What you are good at is not necessarily what you are meant to be doing. I learned that the hard way.
In fact, in a way, I discovered something I found really really difficult was what I was meant to do. Perhaps, like me, you will work out what you were meant to do by process of elimination?
For the first half of my life I was painfully shy. To fix this I took a teaching course. While the course did not actually tell us how to teach, it did force us to speak to groups. For me this was like an arachnophobic type person going to the zoo to hold a tarantula, I am still shy but not half as bad as I was. The best part was it seemed to enable some kind of dormant circuit in me. I teach, that is what I do.
Standing in front of groups and talking to them is now something I do with alarming regularity, and I find it intimidating and nerve wracking. Considering my deep seated terror might suggest that I have this teaching stuff wrong, but actually that is just one type of teaching you are seeing. In fact through my blog, social media, articles, books and in person, I am teaching all the time. That is what comes naturally to me and what is like breathing. So obvious I miss it. I learn, process, and teach it back.
Remember I enjoyed doodling? I get to use that part of myself in my teaching, either directly with whiteboard doodles, or indirectly by adding cartoons or creative layouts to my articles and materials.
When I write I can get into the flow. Time seems to distort, my brain turns to sweet mush, and the words just arrive on screen. Programming was never like that for me, I am a darned good programmer, but it was always an effort that would give me brain ache.
That’s the key, it’s not just what you are good at, or what people expect of you – what do you do automatically, easily, and would do regardless?
There are so many opportunities now to utilize your whole self, you do not need to overhaul your life if you don’t want to. People outlet their creative side by blogging, tweeting, photography and, a recent discovery for me, scrapbooking. You can even earn good money if that is important.
Once you know what your nature is then you can choose how you express it. The most important thing is to delve into the deepest folds of your brain and work out how you were programmed, what kind of mission were your circuits built to do?
While you are thinking about your answer, check out Terry’s article on the same subject.
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