A friend of mine recently posted on social media reflecting on whether it was time to give up her life dream profession and choose an “easier” path.
I know what it’s like to have a bad day at work, even doing the work you love. The other day I asked my husband if I was just being stubborn in persisting with a project that doesn’t seem to be getting off the ground.
My husband replied that, “Anyone who attempts to do something great has to have determination.”
He’s right. Following your dream requires courage, fortitude, and resilience. It takes grit and an irrational optimism.
Our culture has the idea that when you “follow your bliss” it all falls into place effortlessly. That’s a lovely idea, but we do ourselves a disservice when we believe it.
The fact is that following your calling, even when you’re on the right path, will stretch you. Your buttons will be pushed. You will have hard days. You will be called upon to step outside your comfort zone and you will do it clumsily, at least at first, because that is how we do things that are new.
This is what we need to normalize: that you can be on the right path, bringing your gifts to the world, doing the good work your soul intended, and occasionally you will still feel like you got your butt kicked. Luckily, there are some ways to make it easier.
Here are a few things that help me to stay the course when the next thing on my to-do list feels frightening or when I’ve just heard another “no” or I begin to question why I’m doing this instead of just making lattes at Starbucks.
Don’t take it personally. When we pour our heart and soul into the work we do, it can be easy to confuse someone passing on our offer with being rejected ourselves. You are not your work. Developing a habit of not taking it personally will boost your resilience and capacity to stay in the game long enough to hear “yes.”
Take care of yourself. Invest in doing the things that nourish you. Be gentle with yourself. Though there may be times you stretch to meet a deadline for an opportunity, find a balance where your work-life – even the work you love – is sustainable.
Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Success is a team effort, even when you’re a solopreneur. Connect regularly with people who believe in you and believe in what you’re doing – and reach out to them when you’re having a hard day or the next step feels challenging or flat out scary. Imagine them standing with you when you take those scary steps.
Collect positive feedback. Of course it’s helpful to have testimonials or reviews for potential clients or customers, but it’s also helpful to have your own collection of kudos and thank you notes that you can review on a regular basis. Rereading a note or feedback a client shared about how your work has impacted them will help you remember why you’re bothering to do this.
Spend time with others who are following their calling. Share what’s working for you and ask what’s working for them. When you encounter a new task you haven’t done before (like building a website, for example) ask your professional community what made it easier for them or what they learned in the process.
Keep your spirits up. For me, things like a regular meditation practice to connect with spiritual support and a gratitude practice both help me come back to a place of feeling grounded, held, peaceful, and ready to carry on. I remind myself that the divine within me has a plan – and I thank this divine part of myself for making it obvious what’s mine to do and not do.
You might wonder, like my friend, if there’s ever a right time to change course and steer away from the calling you’ve devoted yourself to up to this point.
What I’ve seen and experienced is that our life calling is not a fixed destination, but often evolves with some twists and turns as we grow. If your heart really isn’t in it or you feel drawn to something else, it’s probably time to move on.
In the meantime, know that I’m cheering for you.
Having a supportive community is vitally important for anyone who wants to walk the path of meaningful work and a purpose-filled life.
Who are the people in your corner that believe in you and your vision?
Who are the mentors, coaches, or people ahead of you on a similar path who can make the learning curve easier?
Who else would you like on your team?