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Work with Passion
How To Do What You Love for a Living
By Nancy Anderson
New World LibraryCopyright © 2004 Nancy Anderson
All rights reserved.
FINDING YOUR PASSION
Are you as happy on Monday morning as you are on Friday morning? Do you make the money you need? Do you admire your boss and the company's philosophy? Do you like your colleagues? When your day is over do you look forward to another day of challenge and excitement? Would you buy the product or service that you, your company, or your firm sells? If you are an artist, or you have your own business or private practice, do you enjoy working for your clients or customers? Do you have security, recognition, and advancement potential? Are you the same person at work that you are in your private life?
If you answered no to any of the above questions, then I will tell you what I tell my clients when they begin the process of finding their passion: you can love your work and make the money you need. You can have a life full of adventure and satisfaction. You have many choices and opportunities. You literally do not have enough time in this life to do all the exciting things that you could do. But first, you must know yourself.
Well, that's easy, you say, I know myself — let's move on to finding the work I like, writing a dynamite résumé, and meeting the right people. Surprisingly, few people, even highly paid professionals, know themselves. Most people I meet are so overextended they don't know what they feel, much less what they want to accomplish with their lives.
Passion Secret / Know what you feel as well as what you think.
To find the right work you need to know what you feel as well as what you think, since your feelings tell you what you value. Feeling is not the abdication of thinking; on the contrary, people who do not feel make dreadful errors of judgment.
Taking time to integrate your thoughts and feelings is how you get to know yourself, what is unique about you, your weaknesses as well as your strengths. You discover what annoys you as well as what excites you, what you do naturally and without effort. Although you may need to go to school to acquire technical knowledge, such as computer skills, sales training, or ways to improve your craft, you do not need to change drastically, to drop out, or to get fired to create the results you want.
People come to me because they are dissatisfied with their situations. Their creativity is stifled. They do not know what kind of job or business is best for them. Perhaps they clash with their supervisors; or maybe they are disenchanted with corporate politics and structure. Or they feel a general boredom; they need a new challenge but cannot, for one reason or another, focus on which steps to take to solve their career problems.
Frequently, my clients think that if only they had plenty of money, then they could do the work they love. This is a common fallacy that is often demonstrated in the lives of people who win the lottery. Because money comes too quickly and without effort, they lack the skills to handle the changes wealth makes in their lives. Many of these people wind up losing the money they won. Too late they discover that happiness is the result of loving what you are doing, not of how much money you have in the bank.
Very often, your creative self thrives on a sense of urgency rather than ease and comfort. My most challenging clients are the ones with large trust funds or inheritances. Because they have so much money there is no need to act. They procrastinate, scatter their energies, and get distracted by their money. As a result, the creative self inside these clients is asleep, like a warrior with no battle to fight. Conversely, my best clients describe themselves as desperate. They tell me they will do anything that will help them to find satisfying work, including doing the exercises included in this book.
The Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky learned firsthand the importance of being satisfied with your work. When he was put in prison for holding views that ran counter to those of the authorities, Dostoyevsky was moved by the misery of prisoners who were assigned to carry a huge pile of sand from one side of the camp to the other. Each day, every week, for months on end, they carried the same sand in wheelbarrows back and forth across the camp. Some of the prisoners were in such despair they threw themselves on the electrified barbed-wire fence and committed suicide.
In contrast, in another prison camp Dostoyevsky noticed that the prisoners sang as they went to and from work each day. These men were building a railroad, so at the end of each day they felt accomplished. This led Dostoyevsky to conclude that people can be happy — even in a prison camp — if their work has meaning.
If your work is not meaningful, you may try to make up for that lack on the weekend with hobbies, friendships, travel, love affairs, drugs, overindulgence in drink, or other escapes. By noon on Monday you are deflated, counting the days until next Friday. You wonder if that's all there is to your life.
When you begin looking for satisfying work it helps to think about nature's way. You do not find a pine tree growing in the middle of the Mojave Desert. If you like variety and have always been independent, ever since you were a tiny bud, then do not plant yourself in a big corporation. Look for a job that allows you plenty of variety and room to grow, in a small business with fewer than twenty employees, or start your own small business or private practice.
You will know you are in the right job when you sense that you are becoming a better, wiser person. You are glad to be learning the information offered to you at this job, and you like the other plants around you. The gardener (yourself, the owner, boss, or supervisor) gives you just the right challenge, does not overwater (rescue) you, does not expose you to too much sun (provide unrealistic expectations), and does not neglect you (offer no praise and plenty of criticism).
Let us assume that you need replanting — you are a seedling that is not flourishing. Know that the environment in which you can grow to your full potential is available. Remember this statement; say it every day: "I need to identify my part of the garden." Do you like to work alone? Then you are a shade plant (an introvert). Do you like to work with one other person or in a small group? Then you are the flower that needs a mixture of sun and shade (a partner type). Or are you happiest working on a team? Then you are a flower that thrives in full sun (the extroverted team type). I will discuss the three personality types and temperament in more detail in chapter 5.
Before you move to a new environment, look around you. Are you in the right place where you are? Have you done everything you can to improve this situation? Do you need to change your attitude about the job you have? Are you doing too much and then assuming that the job is the problem, when really it's your tendency to overwork?
Even working with passion feels wrong if you do it too much. Modify your schedule and see if that makes you feel better before you move to another job. Maybe you are not taking enough risks where you are, or you are not taking advantage of the opportunities before you. If this is the case don't move to another job; you will only repeat your dissatisfaction. Work out the problem where you are. If you do leave, do so only after you've given your all. Everyone notices excellence, so leave any situation through the top, when you are feeling confident and complete, instead of angry and resentful.
Over the years, I've seen men and women leap into the unknown in the face of tremendous fear and anxiety. But the prospect of doing what they loved was enough to help them overcome their fear of failure. When they did the work they loved, everything else in their lives fell into place. Like these clients, when you do well in your life's work — whatever that is — you feel well. Your sense of personal worth is keen, and you are able to see others' worth.
As Dostoyevsky learned when he was in the prison camps, it is through the dignity of the work we do that we achieve self-esteem. Helping my clients to discover the work they love allows me to do what I do best: first, to heal their hearts and clear their minds; second, to design a marketing strategy; third, to stay with them as long as necessary. Since I keep my practice small and focused, many of my clients stay in touch with me throughout their careers; I know so much about them, they say, that they like to run current problems by me.
A typical conversation in my first meeting with my client is a variation on the following theme:
I ask, "What bothers you about your work?"
Response: "I feel stifled, unappreciated. My employees and customers drain my energy.... I am so busy I can't think straight. [Being too busy and feeling drained are signs of poor boundaries: my client is giving too much because of his or her need for approval.] My associates' attitudes are poor, my boss is not a leader I admire, I can't seem to get my ideas across, and top management doesn't really care about the employees. We're just faces at desks to them. [Note that all these complaints are an external rather than an internal analysis of the problem.] The job (or business) I'd like is unavailable. I have background, training, and experience, but I can't put my skills to full use. I know I have potential, but I can't seem to focus."
"What have you done about this on your own?" I ask.
Some of the responses include, "I've been thinking about doing something different for months. I've talked to my boss and my friends, but that doesn't help. I bought a really good book on how to write résumés; then I wrote my résumé and emailed it to several people who had openings. I got many responses, so the résumé worked."
When I ask what the results have been, they respond, "Nothing feels right to me. Either the jobs are not what I want, or I'm not what they want. I'm doing something wrong. The whole process has affected everything else in my life, too. I'm not much fun to be around right now, and my home life isn't the greatest. My family (wife, husband, lover) doesn't know what to do; they have their own problems to think about. I know there's something out there that I can really get my teeth into, but what and where? I don't know the market; I don't know where I fit."
Fortunately, before we meet I will have read and digested the first section of my client's autobiography, a fascinating summary of the family's beliefs about money and work (an exercise covered in chapter 2). The client's current situation reflects those beliefs, although she is not conscious of that fact. As she works through her story, she becomes aware of the hidden agenda that works against her conscious intentions.
DISCOVERING YOUR NEEDS
The right "fit" in a job comes when your work satisfies your needs. Having your needs met is similar to having the right nutrients in your diet: you feel happy and content when your body is well nourished. Your needs may or may not be conscious. If you grew up around self-centered people, for example, you may have decided that you were not supposed to have needs, and so you suppressed them. Throughout your life, you may have gravitated toward people who expected you to put their needs first because this was familiar to you. Whenever you put your needs first you felt guilty and wrong since that's how you were conditioned to feel by selfish people.
Let me assure you, when you are happy and content everyone benefits, although selfish people will get angry when you refuse to sacrifice your needs for theirs. But if you remain firm they will adapt to your new boundaries. If not, once they've left your life (and they will) you'll have the time and energy to focus on what you want to do.
Once my clients understand and accept the value of their needs, they make better choices. I can assist them in making this vital connection because they trust me enough to reveal what they truly need. (Passion clue: If you are embarrassed about what you need you are close to your passion! This may not be obvious at first — but think about how vulnerable you feel when something or someone is very close to your heart.) The purpose of this book is to help you to acknowledge the value of your needs without feeling guilty or ashamed.
HOW YOUR FEELINGS WORK WITH YOUR MIND TO ACCOMPLISH YOUR GOALS
When you know what you want and you have the courage to go after it, your mind and feelings work as a team to help you accomplish your objective. As with any search you have to know the right key words. Your feelings provide your mind with these key words, since your feelings reflect what you really want. The mind then goes after the goal following a logical, step-by-step process.
For example, if you want more confidence, your feelings bring someone into your life to challenge your way of doing things. Let us say you doubt your ability but you are not fully aware of that fact. On the surface you look confident, but your underlying doubt communicates itself to people in your environment who sense what you really feel. These people are not taken in by surface appearances, and so they challenge you to prove that you know what you are doing. While these people can make you feel uncomfortable (we all like people who agree with us!), you are forced to stand up for what you believe or admit that what you are doing doesn't work and correct it. The encounter with this critic helps you to clarify your values or to improve your performance. As a result, you gain genuine confidence. This is how your feelings work with your mind to transform you into a more effective person.
The educational systems in most countries train the mind, not the feelings, which leaves students in a quandary when they graduate and discover they lack emotional intelligence — the ability to "read" what is really going on with you and other people. People who trust their feelings see beneath surface appearances, and they respond appropriately. In contrast, those who lack emotional insight may know a great deal of information, but they cannot identify others' underlying motives because they are disconnected from their own emotions. As a result, they feel isolated and alone, even though they may be surrounded by people.
Formal education stresses objectivity and impartiality about facts and data so that emotions do not cloud judgment. Thinking is a linear process; it is logical and analytical. In most people, thinking takes place in the left hemisphere of the cerebral cortex. The function of the left side of the brain is to put the events and feelings you experience in order. The principle of rationality produced the Enlightenment, which challenged superstition and emotional excess. Rationality brought about the scientific and industrial revolutions, as well as tremendous advances in technology and efficiency. However, the emphasis on rational abilities often came at the expense of the right side of the brain, the source of imagination, feeling, intuition, and creativity.
Yet too much emphasis on the right brain causes mental chaos and confusion, such as what you see today with members of cults and fanatic religions. The fanatic in any age is emotionally attached to an impossible ideal, so the mind rejects alternatives that don't fit the individual's utopian worldview. By contrast, a tolerant mind is open and inclusive because it wants what will work in the real world.
By definition, being balanced is having the ability to be comfortable with the functions of both sides of the brain; thinking is not more valid than feeling since both are needed to make wise decisions. When you close your mind or shut down your feelings out of fear or obstinacy you become rigid; you may even lose touch with reality. To open up the mind and heart, slow down and listen to what you may not want to hear. You may be uncomfortable with some of your thoughts and feelings, but you will feel alive again.
Like your physical body, the social and cultural body loses its balance when it rejects reality, as when people hold on to what is dead and gone out of fear of the unknown. They get angry, go on strike, sue people, or fall into despair and hopelessness. Think of the "featherbedding" that occurred on the railroads when the need for firemen was eliminated. Instead of adapting to change and believing that people have the capacity to find other work, union leaders insisted that the railroads keep firemen on the job, even though there was nothing for them to do. This led to added expenses for railroad companies, expenses that were passed on to the consumer.
Excerpted from Work with Passion by Nancy Anderson. Copyright © 2004 Nancy Anderson. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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