Our Greatest Fear
Over the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to work with several college students. It’s not easy to be a college student. Oh, it’s not the classes that are hard – not really. It’s the pressure to choose a career, to find that perfect first job and “make something of yourself” that worries most students. I usually ask students, “What is your greatest fear?” The vast majority say something like, “My greatest fear is that I won’t find my dream job – that I won’t make the right decision.” The funny thing is that I often hear the same thing from the adults I work with!
When I was young, I thought it was my destiny to be a lawyer. I romanticized it, and followed the path with single-minded commitment. I graduated college in three years, and entered law school before my 21st birthday. About two years into law school I began to realize that being a lawyer wasn’t my dream job. To make things worse, I didn’t know what my dream job was! So, I did what any Type A, achievement-obsessed, young woman in my situation would do – I crawled into bed and cried my eyes out. I was ashamed. How could I not know what I wanted to do? How could I make this mistake? Just what kind of loser was I? How would I tell my friends and loved ones? What would they think of me?
What I Would Tell My Student Self
If I could go back in time and talk to my student self, I would say:
- There is no dream job.
- You need to discover your “life’s work” – your purpose.
- You can accomplish your life’s work in many different types of jobs.
- The “dream” is YOU.
I would say, “The hardships, wins, and big dreams that drive you make you who you are. And I have huge faith in you and what you can accomplish in the world.”
Your Life’s Work
Your life’s work is not a job or a career. It’s much bigger than that. Your life’s work is where your unique strengths meet with a body of work that you believe in and will serve as your legacy. It is the “stamp” that you will leave on this world – your contribution. Your job (or, for most of us, jobs) is simply a vehicle for accomplishing your life’s work. In our book, Evolutionaries: Transformational Leadership, we make a dedication to Chief Judge Ann Aiken. I have a client who often quotes one of her favorite lines from Judge Aiken: “Being a judge is just what I do – it’s not who I am.” Ann Aiken’s life’s work is strengthening communities. She has dedicated her life to programs designed to prevent child abuse, strengthen families, and assist offenders in becoming responsible and productive members of society. Being a judge is a great help to her when it comes to designing, supporting, and/or promoting these programs – none of which fit her “job description” as a judge. Don’t get me wrong – she’s a great judge. But that’s just her day job – it’s not her life’s work.
Another example is Geoff George, the CEO of Climax Machine Tools who says, “My mission is to provide an extraordinary life & career for people, working in an extraordinary company, in an extraordinary community.” Geoff’s commitment is bigger than just a job – it’s a holistic approach to leading an organization that includes the betterment of lives and the community – and based in his unique talent and passion for Systems Theory. Geoff has his PhD in Systems Theory and knew he would take a systems approach to whatever job he had. He could pursue this commitment at Climax, or at a myriad of other organizations.
How do you know what your life’s work should be? In Evolutionaries, Cindy Tortorici explains that it all starts with discovering your “Why”. “Think about your Why as being your motivator for doing the work that you choose to do. Your Why represents your values. Think about your values and what brings you joy in work and throughout your life, and you will get to your Why.”
It’s likely that the work you enjoy, and your reasons for doing it are something that can be done in many different jobs or career paths. This is just one way that knowing your Why is liberating. It takes the pressure off – there is no more “finding the perfect job” – but instead you are deciding which line of work you will bring your skills and purpose to. Where will you take your dream?
And here’s the best part: once Evolutionaries are liberated by knowing their Why, they can accomplish truly extraordinary things. Part of the secret to accomplishing great things is to proudly exclaim to the public what you are attempting to achieve. When you know who you are and what you are trying to achieve, you have defined your “life’s work”. And when you know your life’s work, you can be brave. People think that the opposite of courage is fear, but it’s not. The opposite of courage is indifference. When you know what your Why is, when you have fallen in love with your work, you know what you care most about – and that passion is what makes you strong.
Begin your Evolutionary journey today and make your mark on the world. Don’t waste another minute worrying about finding the Dream Job. Start accomplishing your life’s work now – we can’t wait to see what you do!
If you liked this post, be sure to check out the Podcast, “There is No Dream Job! Featuring Gen Y Superstar Jo Wong“!