How do you find the work that’s right for you?

Photograph © Bill Petrie 2018

Everyone wants that feeling of being in the right place, doing the right thing, at the right time. But very few of us know how to achieve this elusive goal.

So how do we find our way?

Well, Joseph Campbell, the great American mythologist hinted at an essential piece of the puzzle. He advised his students to:

‘Go where your body and soul want to go.’

Now, that sounds good but how do we know where our bodies and our souls want to go?

Well, the mistake that most of us make is that we try to use our heads to solve this problem.

And, that typically doesn’t get us very far at all!

The poet, Mary Oliver, understood the problem very well and expressed the solution very beautifully when she wrote: “You don’t have to be good…You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

And she was absolutely right.

You don’t have to be good. In other words you don’t have to do what you think you ‘should,’ ‘must’ or ‘have to’ do.

“You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

Now Mary Oliver was not talking about the pursuit of superficial desires. She was not talking about wanting a glass of wine, wanting a new car or wanting a new pair of shoes.

Superficial desires — those that come out of the incessant ‘wanting’ of our ordinary minds — have a tension about them.

Think of wanting something really badly -a delicious snack, a new item of clothing, the latest electronic gadget.

Now think of getting that thing.

Often there is short-lived pleasure and there is also a relief from the tension of wanting.

Mary Oliver was talking about something different.

She was talking about are those motivations that originate in a much deeper part of our selves.

And, these deeper motivations have a different quality about them.

Deeper motivations tend not to result in tension — unless we are afraid of these desires.

Rather, if we embrace these deeper motivations, they soften us and open our hearts.

Take, for example, a deep realisation like: ‘Oh! I would really love to do that one day.’ Such a realisation will move us into a soft and openhearted reverie that points us to a path that is truly our own.

So, in exploring the work that’s right for you, the vital task is to discover those things that give you a sense of softening and opening in your body.

Very often this will be felt in your heart.

Acting on these deeper motivations, will move you into a way of being in the world that truly feels like home because an authentic life is, in its essence, where we truly feel at home.

But, I’m not going to lie you — to tell you that it is always easy to live an authentic life.

It often requires great courage and commitment.

But, the alternative is not pretty.

Joseph Campbell loved to tell a story about a father and his son. At the time of the story, Joseph was an unmarried young man who loved eating out and he was doing just that. And, ‘at the next table there was a father, a mother, and a boy about 12 years old. The father said to the boy, “drink your tomato juice.” And the boy said, ‘“I don’t want to.” Then the father, with a louder voice, said, “Drink your tomato juice.” And the mother said, “don’t make him do what he doesn’t want to do.”

The father looked at her and said, “He can’t go through life doing what he wants to do. If he does only what he wants to do, he’ll be dead. Look at me. I’ve never done a thing I wanted to in all my life.” And, with a certain amount of horror, Joseph thought to himself: ‘that’s the man who never followed his bliss. You may have a success in life, but then… What kind of life was it?”

Traditional African healers know about this too. One of their metaphors speaks of a frog that sits next to a river and its challenge is to overcome its fear and inertia and to jump into the river — the river of life. If it doesn’t jump, it is doomed to a life that is dry — a life that may even kill it.

So, in truth, there is no other good choice than to take up the challenge of finding the work that’s right for you because an inauthentic life will eventually drain all life from you.

So, ask yourself: ‘What does my heart really long for?’

And, keep asking that question.

Listen to your body.

And, search for what softens and opens your heart.

And then jump into the river of life!

Bill Petrie is an online Coach and Mentor who loves helping others to discover the work and life that’s right for them.

Deep Insights Coaching on Facebook

#life purpose, #purpose, #meaning, #job satisfaction, #life Coach

Originally published at on August 21, 2018.

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