January 03, 2003

What Should You Do with Your Life?

Seven months ago, my wardrobe changed abruptly from casual business to casual farmer. I left my job as a physical therapist, and perhaps I have left my profession. We'll see.

On this side of the divide, the cerebral chemistry of stress and competition have given way to a sedate satisfaction with being in the present, cloistered in a rural safe haven with myself. It is a different way to live, an altered state of being, with a different center. It is more like being than doing. Words that passed fleeting and dismissed as I hurried to work -- the images, alliteration and allusion of internal dialogue -- are finally sifting down onto paper, or its phosphor equivalent, finding a voice beyond the stifled thought world of one man alone carried by the currents of a busy life.

Writing has become a daily celebration, and I have begun to learn who I have been under the costume all these years. Fortunately, I am mostly happy with what I see, and read, of this man, myself, and to know through the kindness of readers and correspondents there are others who know this struggle and this joy as well.

And yet I am not at fully at rest in this inbetween state. I do not yet know fully what I should do with my life. But in his well-crafted look at 900 others who also ask this question, Po Bronson offers comfort to me in his showing that the question is worth asking. I haven't yet found my place, but I have reason to believe it can be found. I leave you a few disjointed excerpts from his excellent piece at fastcompany... do read it all.

[...]The previous era of business was defined by the question, Where's the opportunity? I'm convinced that business success in the future starts with the question, What should I do with my life?

[...]I have spent the better part of the past two years in the company of people who have dared to confront where they belong. They didn't always find an ultimate answer, but taking the question seriously helped get them closer. We are all writing the story of our own life. It's not a story of conquest. It's a story of discovery. Through trial and error, we learn what gifts we have to offer the world and are pushed to greater recognition about what we really need. The Big Bold Leap turns out to be only the first step.

[...]There is nothing more brave than filtering out the chatter that tells you to be someone you're not. There is nothing more genuine than breaking away from the chorus to learn the sound of your own voice. Asking The Question is nothing short of an act of courage: It requires a level of commitment and clarity that is almost foreign to our working lives.

[...]Your calling isn't something you inherently "know," some kind of destiny. Far from it. Almost all of the people I interviewed found their calling after great difficulty. They had made mistakes before getting it right.

[...]Asking What Should I Do With My Life? is the modern, secular version of the great timeless questions about our identity. Asking The Question aspires to end the conflict between who you are and what you do. Answering The Question is the way to protect yourself from being lathed into someone you're not. What is freedom for if not the chance to define for yourself who you are?

[...]What am I good at? is the wrong starting point. People who attempt to deduce an answer usually end up mistaking intensity for passion. To the heart, they are vastly different. Intensity comes across as a pale busyness, while passion is meaningful and fulfilling. A simple test: Is your choice something that will stimulate you for a year or something that you can be passionate about for 10 years?

[...]Those who are lit by that passion are the object of envy among their peers and the subject of intense curiosity. They are the source of good ideas. They make the extra effort. They demonstrate the commitment. They are the ones who, day by day, will rescue this drifting ship. And they will be rewarded. With money, sure, and responsibility, undoubtedly. But with something even better too: the kind of satisfaction that comes with knowing your place in the world.

Posted by fred1st at January 3, 2003 08:59 PM | TrackBack

A friend had sent me the article yesterday - and I then emailed it to another with whom I had been discussing The Question on New Year's Eve. Timely - since amid the celebratory chorus, the urge to listen to the whisper seems stronger with the turning of the calendar, and many Australians
with the long summer break are (literally) shedding their costumes. Cheers.

Posted by: boynton at January 3, 2003 10:59 PM


It's true, too.

It took me years to discover that nursing is where I truly belonged. Had I taken on this career earlier, I might not appreciate the art of my chosen profession as much. I do appreciate it now.

Your path is there, covered in brush. You'll find it soon enough, Fred.

Posted by: Da Goddess at January 4, 2003 01:18 AM

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