For most of us, the routine of our lives centers on our work. Our daily rhythms, how we define ourselves and the commitment of our time and talent are bound to the work that we pursue. Except for the entrepreneurs among us, we are most likely working for someone else. If we are lucky, an effortless synergy exists between the demands of our workplace and our individual need for fulfillment and achievement.
When a rupture occurs between work and self, it is disorienting. If the rupture is sudden and unexpected, we are left to quickly reorient our lives and begin anew with a plan and refocused purpose. If we are unafraid of reflection and introspection, however, we immediately recognize the experience for what it might offer, an opportunity for personal ascendency.
“Don’t quit a job unless you have a job.” “You can get a job when you’ve got a job.” These were statements that my beloved mother instilled in me as I began my professional career. They became deeply ingrained in my consciousness and would shape my approach to my work life and the decisions I made. These statements, given in love and meant to protect, also created a caution and uncertainty that doubtless kept me shackled to unfulfilling and unhappy jobs.
We are all tethered to workplace situations that may not always be ideal. It is responsible to do what we must to maintain our families and lifestyles and that might often mean accepting circumstances that do not necessarily affirm or celebrate who we are and what we have to offer.
Sometimes a confluence of discontent, angst, longing and courage compels a spectacular decision to challenge and re-imagine deeply held assumptions and beliefs about employment security. An unexpected encounter places integrity and character squarely on the line and forces a split-second response that liberates you and sets you on a journey. In that moment and in the moments of reflection afterward, you realize that you have been given an opportunity to seize control of your destiny in ways most often imagined but rarely actualized. While well-meaning love ones might worry that you have been cast aside with little financial protection or immediate job prospects and you may struggle to keep fear and uncertainty about your future at bay, you are, nevertheless, secretly delighted by the prospect of deliverance.
There is something that is, at once, terrifying and exhilarating to know that you will rise or fall solely on your gifts, talents, abilities and your effectiveness in making them work for you. It is incredibly exciting when you finally realize that every sentence you write will be yours, every thought you construct, every speech you give, every meeting you schedule will be to advance your vision, whatever that might be. You are no longer a supportive player in someone else’s narrative.
We have one life and it is all we get. This moment is all that is guaranteed. Life is capricious, tenuous and unpredictable. It is also a Divine gift that offers incredible opportunities and challenges. It is only when we are brave and fearless enough to live our lives fully and courageously that the gift of life is unpacked with all its wonders and possibilities.
Of this I am absolutely resolute, we should never give anyone the power to steal our joy in the workplace or anywhere. In the meantime, it is wise to stash away a little money; it will allow you to live with integrity and provide the pragmatic foundation to take a principled stand in the workplace when it is required. No job should be allowed to present a stronghold on your choices. As Steve Jobs reminded us, “ The only way to do great work is to love what you do”