It seems that any time we start on a new career path, we are filled with the excitement of possibility. It’s sort of like being an artist and standing in front of our blank canvas while enjoying the feeling of pure potential ahead of us.
Eventually, however, our sense of freedom disappears. All too quickly we find ourselves in an inspirational rut. Before we know it, our work life has become dull and dissatisfying.
Here are three reasons why we fall off our inspirational axis and what we can do to get back on it.
Stop trying to save the world
Often, we go about selecting our career path reactively, forgetting to consciously track the source of our inspiration. Without this awareness, we can’t discern whether we’ve chosen a path that genuinely aligns with our passion or if our honest motive is to seek some type of validation from the external world.
When we fuel our careers with ideas about how we are supposed to be rather than how we want to be, we end up attracting ideas, methods, and opportunities that limit us.
Many of us approach our job with high hopes and a big heart. We want to save the world, heal people, fix this, mend that.
The savior complex is more common than we realize. Through religious or social pressures, we come to believe that our worth depends on our ability to save others. As a result, we may choose to do ‘benevolent’ work and enmesh ourselves with the world’s woes. In other words, rather than anchoring our work in what truly ignites us, we use our career as a mechanism to compensate for our personal sense of lack or deficiency.
Work, regardless of what we do, is ultimately an opportunity for expansion and evolution. Instead of using our career to replay an old story, we need to resolve our past so that it no longer interferes with our professional dreams.
Do your inner homework
Our career is an extension of self. Regardless of the nature of our work, it is going to mirror a big piece of who we are and/or the big life lessons we’ve learned so far.
Being responsible for self is a major step in the direction of having an inspired career. When we acknowledge our “stuff,” it is much easier to determine what work truly excites us and how to access our inner genius.
Boredom can set in when we don’t do our inner homework. If we (or others) notice that we’re “talking the talk but not walking the walk,” this may signal that we’re disconnected from what really inspires us.
Being responsible for self is also how we set boundaries and discern what belongs to us versus others.
When we have blind spots about ourselves—pieces of us we don’t want to look at—this can manifest in our work as a desire to fix the very problems in others that we need to first address in ourselves.
Often, when we try to solve others’ problems before we’ve solved them in our own lives, we limit the depth of insight that we can provide. Or, our products don’t respond to the needs and wants of our clients. Either way, our work starts to feel flat. We sense that we’re not making a real impact.
It’s a lot more difficult to help others cross a threshold that we haven’t personally crossed. It’s also a lot more inspiring to help others from a place of deep knowing and abundance. Yet another reason to resolve the past.
Get serious about playfulness
Many of us shy away from being playful at work. We swallow boredom like a plate of bland vegetables because we believe it’s good for us. When we play and have fun, a sense of guilt kicks in about not doing what we are supposed to be doing.
We have somehow normalized deep boredom and reserved deep fun for rare occasions. What would happen if we flipped that around?
Normalized doesn’t mean natural. Work becomes natural when we do what comes easily to us.
Chronic boredom is not healthy. It’s often a signal that we are ignoring our innate child-like inclinations to play and explore (notice that I didn’t say child-ish).
Here’s a good question to ask ourselves to determine if our work feels like play: Am I in love with the process?
If our focus is primarily on outcomes and we are slogging through the in-between, the answer is likely “no.” Loving the process matters because a) it’s where we spend most of our time and b) the outcomes of our work reflect how much we put into it.
Working from a sense of obligation squelches our inspirational energy. Therefore, one of the most effective ways to recharge it is to regularly tune into what beckons us in the present moment. In other words, consistently doing what we want to do just because we feel like it. It’s that simple.
The part we actually struggle with is letting go of guilt and realizing that the quandary between having fun and being responsible is a false choice.
We may have come to believe that what we are meant to do is some sort of external decree. This can be a sign that we are punting the decision to figure out what we genuinely want.
What we are meant to do is what we love to do. There is no gap.
Our calling is found where our deepest joy meets the world’s deepest need. Our inspirational starting point is not figuring out what the world needs and trying to mesh with that.
When our work first and foremost honors our individual joy, we will inevitably be of service to others. Our professional joy inherently supports what the world needs to improve itself. We can trust that.
Work becomes nourishing when we allow ourselves to be who we are. And until we are nourished by our work, we haven’t fully honored the role it is meant to fulfill in our lives and our world.
Bianca Finkelstein is an awakening coach who helps people realize their full creative potential.