In my last post, I talked about the relief that came after reading Liz Gilbert’s Facebook post about what I dubbed the “life purpose problem.” Have you ever struggled with confusion about what you’re supposed to be doing with your life? If you have, you’re not alone.
Liz thinks we’re asking the wrong question. Instead of seeking meaning and purpose by asking, “What am I doing with my life?” ask “How am I spending my time?” Her post has helped me evaluate how the things I’m already doing fit into the different veins of a purposeful life, and I have noticed that a simple shift in my thinking relieves me of some of the burden I feel when I believe the thought, “I don’t have my purpose figured out.“
Go back and read my previous post if you’re unfamiliar with the following concepts and keep reading to see how I’ve sorted things out for myself.
I’ve felt confusion at times about how what I do in my spare time fits into what I should be doing with my life. If I spend hours doing something that doesn’t make me money, does that mean I should change jobs or careers? The answer is no. I just love to do it. And I don’t usually want to do it for anyone else.
My hobby, I’ve realized, is homemaking. I spent several years being a professional homemaker, as a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom. I loved it, and yet wrote more than my fair share of blog posts about struggling with the fact that it was the only thing I was doing. Fast-forward a few years later when I’m working part-time outside the home, and I haven’t been cured of the homemaking bug. I’m not wishy-washy, or confused. The truth is, I just genuinely love creating a cozy home for my family.
Decorating, cooking, organizing, gardening: these are the things I do when I have spare time. These are the activities I choose when I have no other “work” to do. They don’t fill me with dread. They don’t suffocate me with pressure. They bring me joy. They are my hobbies.
I’ve been hard on myself when it comes to my job. After my divorce, I had to jump back into the workforce after being out for 6 years. I got a job fairly quickly, had a decent salary… and was miserable. The job was soul-sucking. It wasn’t long before my disdain for the job turned into motivation that helped me find a new one, but I noticed that no matter where I ended up, I was frustrated with myself. I felt like I was doing some wrong… like I was “behind.” I hadn’t figured out my perfect job, and didn’t know where to begin. My ex-husband had always wanted to be a doctor – it was “who he was.” My new husband was a born teacher, and loved his job. He “was doing what he was meant to do.” And then, there was me. Former stay-at-home-mom who couldn’t decide on a career, and who didn’t know what she wanted to do in life.
My problem was that I was equating “job” with “life purpose.” When I remove the belief that a job is everything, I find more enjoyment in the job I have. My job isn’t my career. My job isn’t my purpose. It’s just a job. Thankfully, I do enjoy a lot of things about my job. I love the flexibility that my particular job gives me – especially as a mother of young children. My job allows me to contribute to our family finances, and helps me hone my professional, personal, and financial skills. The job I have now might not be the job I have forever, and it doesn’t have to be the perfect job. It fulfills a NEED, but it doesn’t have to fulfill ME.
“Career” has always been a heavy word for me. As an ENFP, I feel pulled in many directions when I think about how I can contribute to the world. And while having so many options might feel like freedom to someone else, it feels overwhelming to me. According to Liz, not everyone has to have a career, and that’s an idea I’m going to meditate on for a while. (You’ll probably see a career-themed blog post soon….) I can’t help but file away the impulse to go through life-coaching training year after year, so perhaps I’ll find myself moving closer and closer to that career choice in the next few years. Not knowing what I’ll do, however, no longer feels like a problem.
Initially, thinking about my “vocation” was difficult for me, but I quickly realized that any difficulty I had stemmed from the parameters I was placing on that word. “Vocation” doesn’t always look like a job or career. “Vocation” can also refer to the ways in which your soul contributes to the world. My soul is passionate about improving the experience of life. I want to raise emotionally intelligent children who raise more emotionally intelligent children. I want to help people navigate relationships. I want to increase our acceptance of, and gratefulness for, the life we’ve been given. My vocation is to move people past old ways of thinking, and towards a higher consciousness. It’s not something I chose to be interested in or pursue, but it’s what was planted in my soul before I was born.
This vocation doesn’t have to manifest itself in a single job or career. Instead, an acknowledgement of my vocation allows it to seep into every area of my life. My vocation influences the way I partner with my husband, the way I parent, the way I counsel, and even the way I manage my money.
DON’T TRY TO BLEND WHAT DOESN’T NEED TO BE BLENDED
Since reading Liz’s Facebook post, I’ve been a little less pressured when it comes to figuring things out. Decisions about what to do for work, how to spend my time, and what I’m doing with my life no longer feel as weighty as they once did. I can make a home because I enjoy doing it. I can have good days at my job, and bad days at my job, and collect my paycheck all the same. I can move in the direction of an interesting career without feeling as though I’ve got to figure out every piece of the puzzle. And I can accept my calling from the Universe to breathe love and kindness into the world in the way that only I can.
“Don’t try to blend what perhaps doesn’t need to be blended. Don’t mistake a job for a career, or a career for a vocation, or a vocation for a hobby, or a hobby for a job. Be clear about what each one is, be clear about what can be reasonably expected, and be clear about what is demanded of you by each one.”
Thanks, Liz. I needed that.
**I’ve also been thinking of how I can incorporate these ideas into the blog. Be on the lookout for post categories related to these four areas: hobbies, jobs, careers, and vocations. Life is full of things to write about….**
So, dear readers, how are you spending your time in life?