Our Life’s Work

“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” Unknown

You’ve heard the question: “What would you do if you couldn’t fail?” This is the wrong question. The right question is: “What would you do even though you could fail?” Said differently, what do you love so much, what is so intrinsic to the fabric of your being, that you would risk failure in order to contribute?

What you Deserve

The following belief is a prerequisite to pursue your vocation, from the Latin, vocare, meaning ‘calling’ or ‘to be summoned’:

“I am innately worthy and deserve to contribute to our planet in a way that is both unique and deeply meaningful.”

Repeat as needed.

Maybe it feels a little goofy to say that out loud, but it’s critical. Here’s why:

The inner conviction of worth is the chassis necessary to pursue purpose.

If you’ve been following my LinkedIn articles, first, thank you, and second, you know I haven’t been dealt the most plum hand of life experiences: I have encountered symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), dyslexia, a diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome, job loss, and, a decade ago, an abusive relationship that threatened my life.

But I certainly haven’t been dealt the worst hand either. We rarely have the best or worst thing going.

These experiences did not diminish me, they developed me. Pain and adversity, if we let them, serve a purpose. They are powerful and unyielding catalysts for change. Each time I’ve been cracked open, I’ve found a truth and a measure of strength within myself that I didn’t previously possess. I am confident and compassionate, not despite these experiences, but because of them.

Adversity affords each of us the opportunity to take the broken parts, and make them beautiful.

Relentlessness Leads to Radical Change

Recently, I’ve felt restless. I’ve been thinking about what I am here on this earth to be and do. I’m learning that:

Purpose is not found, it is forged.

Step by step. By picking up the next bread crumb and following the path. Purpose, often, does not occur all at once, but is born out of relentless continuous improvement, rather than a single revelation. Getting found is, indeed, profound, but life’s purpose rarely emerges without struggle, strife, and a bit of sorrow.

· Change “cleans house” and makes room for change to occur.

· Experiences are what we make of them — Many have heard of PTSD, but few have heard of Post-Traumatic Growth. Adversity brings opportunity for self-advancement.

What Keeps Us Stuck

Inertia is the enemy of evolution. If you get stuck, keep going. Also, try this:

Begin again. Today is a new day. You are not shackled to your past. You can make a new choice and create a fresh experience.

Develop or decay. The insight that comes with awareness and the ability to share our true selves with the world is the greatest gift we can give to humanity.

We are more universal than we are unique. Often, we believe that our uniqueness means no one understands, but in truth, we’re more connected in our experience than we are separate.

Devotion versus distraction. Focus comes, not from eliminating distraction, but from devotion to a cause that creates sustained attention and rises above distraction.

Responsibility for self. Even in my most powerless, I found an ardent internal power that could not be taken away.

A brand of crazy. What drives us crazy also drives us to contribute. Florence Nightingale said “Why am I dissatisfied with a life that has satisfied so many?” Find what makes you feel dissatisfied or a little angry. Then, change it. Be unsatisfied with the status quo.

Judgement is par for the course. Doing good work does not absolve us of detractors. Even Mother Theresa had her critics. People will judge us. Don’t stay hidden in fear. Allow them to judge accurately.

Excuses. Don’t make the alibi more attractive than the achievement — excuses exact a heavy cost.

Get comfortable getting uncomfortable. Working at vocation does not mean life will get easier; you’ll be sustained by the vitality that comes only with exercising your strengths to the fullest extent.

Failure. It’s easy to balance atop an ever narrowing set of safe pursuits. Every good teacher must also remain a student. Vocation is created through trial. Failure. Learning. Trial. Victory. Learning. Repeat.

There’s no perfect time to pursue your life’s purpose. Waiting for the epiphany? You’ll be waiting a long time. Change happens, not through a single crystallizing moment, but through an accumulation of choices and habits.

Make the next right honest decision.

It’s not about the work. It’s all about the work. Nobility of purpose exists not within the particular work we do, but within the excellence we bring to our work.

What we work on, works on us. Our hearts, minds, and souls. We are defined and shaped by the experiences we choose. Failure, confusion, and despair are also part of the process.

Never stop chiseling your statue.

We know we’ve found our calling when our pure joy of purpose meets the world’s need.

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Taryn Marie Stejskal, Ph.D. is an author, thought leader, resilience guru, and global talent management professional. She works with top leaders to support their growth, remind them of their purpose, and allow them to bring the best of themselves to work each day.

Follow on Twitter @TarynStejskal for updates, articles, inspiring quotes, and all manner of fabulousity!