Since our jobs consume such a big part of our living years, it is not surprising that our careers significantly influence our life satisfaction. According to the life span theory, the first part of adulthood is about choosing a career, entering a professional field, starting a family, and providing for their needs. Many of us began in occupations that were not necessarily our best fit but were available or even convenient. We sometimes feel trapped in jobs that provide high income and lifestyle but leave us feeling disappointed. It might feel as if we are living someone else’s life.
Midlife is that time that invites us to stop and ponder. At this stage, we consider our vocation as part of our life purpose. As James Hollis articulates, “while all of us have to find a way to support our material existence, our work also carries a more significant invisible burden, the presumption that it will provide our lives with meaning and energize our spirits.”
We are living in unprecedented times with significant forces of change: The pandemic, social movements demanding more equality and equity in the workplace, and how technology is impacting the way we work and live. Nowadays, the meaning of work has moved well beyond the original focus of providing for the basic human needs of food and shelter to self-actualization.
Today, in first-world societies, individuals, for the most part, can choose the type of work they pursue, the relative priority they give to work instead of other activities, and the conditions of employment. The pandemic has exacerbated this trend, giving people all kinds of reasons to change direction. Many are rethinking what work means to them, how they are valued, and how they spend their time. Millions of workers are quitting their jobs in search of better conditions and more meaningful work. According to the Labor Department, a record 4 million people quit their jobs in April of this year alone.
Remote work has changed hearts and minds. The way we think about time and space has changed,” says Tsedal Neeley, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of the book Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding from Anywhere. Workers now crave the flexibility given to them in the pandemic — which had previously been unattainable, she says.
According to Gallup, 45% of full-time workers in the U.S. are still working at least some of the time remotely. Among white-collar workers, it’s about 70%. In survey after survey, an overwhelming majority of workers say they want flexible work options to continue.
All these forces of change invite us to decide the what, where, how, and most importantly, the why of our work. Maybe you have been thinking about changing careers or leave a corporate job to become an entrepreneur. What is calling you? The path is open before your eyes. Make a decision for you and your soul.
Here are some ideas on conducting a career inventory and walking away with specific actions to take charge and connect with a more fulfilling purpose. Find a quiet place in a moment when you feel relaxed. Divide your professional life into four chapters, from the moment you started your career up to the present moment. With paper and pen in hand, be ready to respond to these questions:
- How would you name each chapter based on the most significant learnings?
2. What areas of your career have disappointed you?
3. What were failures? In which ways have you fallen short of expectations?
4. What opportunities did you find on those setbacks?
5. Do you keep bumping into the same patterns even after switching jobs?
6. What have been your most significant successes? What makes them so unique?
7. What type of legacy and influences do you feel most proud of?
1. What areas of your career are still in a dormant stage?
2. What would you instead do with your talents if money, time, age, and experience were not significant factors?
3. What is one action you are willing to take to move you in the direction of a more fulfilled vocation?
4. Why is that important to you?
5. What barriers do you anticipate?
6. How would you overcome them?
7. Who can be a support system or accountability partner in this exploratory journey?
Robert A. Johnson in his book Living your Unlived Life, very well articulates this idea of reevaluating our values. Realize that the values that worked in the first half of your life might not suit your life stage if you are in your midlife. We might still be attached to identities that are no longer serving us. Realize you are not the same person as the one who started a career many years back. Give yourself permission to change and make the necessary adjustments to bring more meaning and purpose as you use your talents and skills.
Today can be a perfect time for a soulful engagement to ask what you want to do with your vocation. Do not think it is too late in paying attention to what is still calling you for a resolution. You can fulfill your purpose if you are willing to be brave enough to admit you are ready for a change and make it happen. It is your life!!