8 Signs You've Found Your Life's Work

Wondering if the job you have now is "the one"—or just another stop on the way to something more fulfilling? Check out this list to know whether it's time to settle in or keep moving.

This month marks the nine-month anniversary of the most natural and obvious, most joyful and energizing decision of my life: to fully commit 100% to my life's work.

I've spent every day falling more madly in love with how I live my life and spend my time, the contributions I'm making to society, and the discomfort and growth that I feel each day.

My journey getting here was both arduous and enthralling. It was not at all straightforward. I had numerous experiences that collectively brought me here, teaching me what I'm capable of and showing me what does and does not resonate.

Though I've known for many years that my purpose is to unlock human potential, it took me some time to fully embrace my intuition, to figure out how to actualize this vision, and to build the courage to lean into my fears. (And it's still, and always will be, an ongoing learning process.)

I've made the mistake of plunging headfirst into a business commitment that wasn't fulfilling, spending more time trying to make it work than actually getting stuff done. I've felt red flags early on in a startup but waited nine months to listen to my intution. I've put off my own ideas to help others actualize their visions because it was less scary. Though I would relive my mistakes all over again in a second (and I believe making more mistakes helps you grow and gain confidence), I'd love to save you some time and energy along your journey.

Inspired by an article by MeiMei Fox about finding "the one" in love, and based on my own experiences and conversations with friends who are in love with how they work, live, and play, here are 8 signs you've found your life's work:

1. It doesn't feel like work.
Your life's work is not a "job"—it's a way of living. Your work enables you to create the lifestyle you want for yourself and your lifestyle includes your work. You frequently stop and think to yourself, "Wait, am I seriously working right now?" You can hardly distinguish between work, play, and life—as they are all intertwined. In everything you do, you are constantly pursuing your vision of optimal living.

2. You are aligned with your core values.
Your life's work is an extension of your beliefs and worldview. You live in integrity because what you do is in accordance with who you are. This alignment will inspire you to move a small mountain if that's what you have to do to realize your vision. Every day you work to manifest and actualize the world you imagine because by making it so, you'll make the world more alive, beautiful and well.

3. You are willing to suffer.
Passion comes from the latin word 'pati,' which means 'to suffer.' Your life's work is less about following a passion and more about your willingness to suffer along the way. The journey will be immensly challenging at times. You'll be exposed to unexpected challenges and setbacks and you may endure hardship, rejection, and sacrifice. These roadblocks will motivate you. In fact, you see the short-term pain and discomfort as tremendous opportunities for learning, growth and depth; they're critical to appreciating the beautiful and joyous moments.

4. You experience frequent flow.
You naturally and often fall "in flow," deeply immersed by your work and the present moment. At 1:13 p.m. you realize five hours have gone by since you looked at the clock last. Or, you look up and realize it's 12:21 a.m. and your instinct is to keep creating. Flow isn't something you have to force; it just happens.

5. You make room for living.
Your work provides you the ability to live fully and enjoy life. Though you feel captivated and enthralled by your work, you make room for healthy routines like fitness, connection, spontaniety, and play. These activities re-energize and enable you to live a holistically fulfilling life.

6. Commitment is an honor.
When you discover your life's work, the question of commitment is easy. There is no hestitation or analyzation as to whether or not the work is right for you. Your heart says yes. Your mind says yes. Your body says yes. Commitment to your work feels like breahting. You cannot imagine spending your time dedicated to any other purpose.

7. The people who matter notice.
"You look vibrant!" and "I've never seen you so healthy and happy!" and "This is without question what you're meant to be doing!" are among the comments you may hear from the people closest to you when you're on the right path. It's important to note that these people who care for you deeply may also be the first to question and worry in the early stages. But, once you are thriving, they'll notice and lovingly support your efforts.

8. You fall asleep exhausted, fulfilled, and ready for tomorrow.
You go to sleep each night grateful for the day. You know you're on the right path, you gave the day your all, and you can't wait to do it all over again tomorrow. This is your life and you cannot imagine living it any other way.

Amber Rae is Founder & CEO of The Bold Academy, a life accelerator designed to help you lead the life you were meant to lead. Applications for Bold Academy San Francisco are now open. For more on Amber, check out her blog or follow her on Twitter.

[Image: Flickr user Rob]

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143 Comments

  • I have been working toward my ultimate career goal ever since my first full time job from University 30 years ago. Along the way there have been many difficult setbacks, false working relationships and voices saying you are dreaming above your means. I find strength in the intermediate victories along the way and the joy of knowing there are much larger forces than your self moving you forward. Thanks for this. Prairie guy

  • Soulpianist

    It seems there are lots of people who do not believe this is possible. They are the ones who will discourage you constantly to give up such belief, thus, ultimately keeping you from achieving your life's work. They are so miserable with their own situation that they want you to be stuck in the same hopeless state as they are. Then they tell you that's life. Well, all I can say to these so-called realists is: Life is what we allow it to be! Will you allow the obstacles to defeat you? Or will you continue to believe and do your best to gradually overcome the things that keep you from achieving your life's work? It's your call. It's your life.

  • Peter

    Hi Amber,
    Beautiful article, and well said. I have had the pleasure of doing my life's work for 16 1/2 years now, and although the past 5 years have been very challenging and sometimes deeply disheartening, I am rediscovering my purpose and working on a new evolution of what I do.  It was very nice to read your article. I think you've summarized the key traits well. Carry on inspiring others and living your dream.
    Peter.

  • Ryan Rowe

    I liked this short article about deciding whether you’re happy in your line of work. #2, 3, and 4 really ring true for me and I think are excellent signs that you’re in a good place. But #6 on commitment, I disagree with. Commitment can waver sometimes. Especially if, as #3 says “You are willing to suffer.” Sometimes the really painful moments can cause you to question whether you are doing the right thing. It doesn’t always feel so positive. It’s not so easy. Sometimes you’ll wonder why you’re doing it at all. But suffer a bit more, and I promise you’ll get over those humps. The lessons you’ll learn will be worth it and that will contribute to feeling passionate about your work!

  • Abc

    Depends on the individual's mindset more than the job, anyone with real insight into existence will work out pretty quickly how pointless what they do is regardless of how they feel about it. 

  • Subhasish Ghosh

    Absolutely loved reading it. When you've found your life's work, it doesn't matter whether its 2 A.M. or 4 A.M. You still reply to emails from work; cause work becomes a part of your life and is indeed very fun. For those of you who work for that "paycheck end of the month", you need to read this post. As Steve Jobs used to say, "Do what you Love. You've got to find what you Love. As with all matters of the Heart, you'll know when you find it".

  • Holly Koskinen

    Actually, I have all of these things. I have to say, I'm exceedingly lucky to have found what I've wanted to do with my life early on. Granted I've been through some raging trials of hardship to get where I'm at, but I'm here…I did it because I worked my arse off. I don't think this is ridiculous or fantasy-level stuff (as BMAN put it) at all. It only seems like something unobtainable when you're either A) not willing to put forth the (sometimes years of) effort to get there B) doubt yourself to where you're shooting yourself in the foot before you even get going C) haven't found your own "identity" in your passion yet.

  • in the ballpark of my goal

    It's an inspiring article. I constantly oscillate between job/career choices and as I have broad interests it's really difficult to find a single area that I want to focus on (esp in this age of 'experts' we live in, it's all about being an expert in a given area). The 8 points Amber lists are pertinent to evaluating whether or not you've found a role that will truly sustain your focus, commitment and bring you joy. Thanks for the article Amber!

  • Anonymous

    This article is amazing... i know it is true because I am living and experiencing every single thing mentioned in this article right now.... only those who have not found their life's work will even question for a second the relevance of this article... 

  • Robert Connor

    Great article that makes sense when you find your dream job or work. When you can do what you love everyday its not work its a way of life!

  • Ida Byrd-Hill

    I manage a non-profit, Uplift, Inc. Our mission is reinventing cities one idea at a time. The past 8 years we have been focused on transforming education here in Detroit. My passion,my work, has led to some tremendous change that will reinvent Detroit. I am extending my work to breathe invention into every school, home and community. Check out Fluke - the wealth building game of accidental inventions http://www.youtube.com/user/by...

  • Jussi Wacklin

    Bman. Why so much hate and anger? I enjoyed the article while I agree not all work is fun. But then again, that was never the claim of the author either. Relax, breath deeply and decide to leave your job that makes you so upset about life.

  • Yohan John Kunnenkeril

    Amber Rae,
    I've commented twice already, and am glad for all who have degrees (!) of contentment, satisfaction etc. I am also glad that BMAN spoke his mind and others too who have been neither "hot nor cold" ! So, Amber Rae or any one else (Suzie etc.), could you take this a little further and elaborate- write in another 8 points of the hassles you face even while you are enjoying the more dominant 8  positives that you have already referred to  . Maybe this will help more people to relate to this "way of life", also I believe I can say with confidence that all those who identify with the 8 positives are those who have gone through the mill, quite certainly they did not groove in from day one. And, how do you move from negatives only to positives, and ensure that the positives become more and more dominant.

    I think it all depends on the attitude that you take, and this is a matter of decision, of the will.

    This attitude has a lot to do with your attitude towards your self and towards others. Love yourself, and then love others as you love yourself, and love the one who said this. Statements like these can be impractical to many, can seem like"opium of the masses". If the ones who who "sagely" coin terms such as "Opium of the masses, barf etc." are happier for their state of mind, great, let's listen to them; else let them do the listening,

    Amber Rae, Suzie, those 8 "hassles" please??

  • AC in TX

    I continue to seek that job where I come in each day with a sense of anticipation and leave each day with a sense of accomplishment. I now understand it is totally dependent on the people you work with ... the egos you work with, including your own ... Life is too short to work in crappy jobs, even in IT management.