Five ways to find your heart's desire at work

The desire to be productive is a universal human need. We are programmed with the need to leave our mark on the world, and 'work' is a big part of that. We endeavour to do things and achieve things, whether or not we're actually paid to do so.

However, there's an assumption about work that underpins the attitude of many in the west. It is this – we are not paid to do things that we enjoy. After all, if we do enjoy it, then it can't be work. We get paid precisely because it isn't enjoyable! Remember the Mars bar advert, 'a Mars a day helps you work, rest and play'. Ah, so work can't be play then.

Armed with this assumption, we believe that work – at best – can be okay. We lose sight of the fact that it could be a fulfilling, enjoyable experience. So we enter the world of work, and lose sight of what it is we would love to do. Instead, we take the 'realistic' viewpoint, and work becomes how we make a living, pay bills, support our families, plan our retirement, and so on.

It is little surprise then that many people end up in some sort of career crisis, hating what they do but not knowing what to do instead, and not believing there is anything better out there.

I believe that sound career decisions need to be made from the heart more than the head. After all, did you decide to have kids with your head or your heart? Did you decide who to marry with your head or your heart? Yes, the head should be involved, but your heart should make the decision! Your head is best employed in working out how your decision can be made to work.

Trouble is, we become so disconnected from our heart when it comes to work. So how can we reconnect it with our work, and so move toward doing something we love, or at least enjoy, while getting paid for it? Here are five ways you can begin to do this.

1. Revisit your child view

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? A policeman? Nurse? Racing driver? Vet? More importantly, why did you want to be that person? Children answer the question from their heart and emotions, not their head. So connecting with your childhood answer will help you identify what your heart was trying to tell you.

To give you an example, I wanted to be a fireman when I was a boy. Now, some of the attraction was the idea of doing something brave, and being seen as a hero. Nothing wrong with that! However, the other reasons were more illuminating. The idea of helping other people to avoid danger, and to put their fires out. That, in a sense, is what I do now – I work with clients to help them tackle the fires in their work and lives that prevent them from being productive and happy. If you work out what was behind your answer, you might find some clues to the sort of work you would like to be doing now.

2. Where do you lose track of time?

Do you remember when you were last doing something and lost all track of time? You suddenly realise three hours have passed since you last looked at your watch. Clearly, you were engaged in what you were doing, so what was it? What skills were you using? The task might not have been actual work, but that doesn't matter.

Answering these questions will give you clues to the types of work you might love.

3. What are your spare time activities?

What are you doing in your spare time that others might consider to be 'work' but which you would gladly do for nothing? Indeed, you do it for nothing! Some people do their 'day jobs' and then do things like organise weddings and parties, or work on accounts or in the back garden. You might enjoy car mechanics, baby-sitting, or helping other people with their problems. What is it you do for nothing, and why? Again, this will give you a clearer picture of where your heart wants to be engaged.

4. What makes you feel good?

Identify things you've achieved in your life that you felt good about, either at the time or in hindsight. You are likely to want these things in work if you can find work that includes them. Do you feel good when you are organising people to reach a common goal? If so, working with people in a team, or even as team leader, might appeal to you. Do you enjoy helping others work through their financial issues? The things you enjoy, and that make you feel good, are ideal things to do at work. They are likely to be aligned with your personal values too.

5. Listen to what others say you're good at

Finally, if you really are struggling to work this out for yourself, what is it that other people always say you're good at? Remember phrases like this? “He's a good organiser, he always knows what he's doing”. “She's great with figures”. “Sam is fantastic talking to groups of people”. Whatever this is for you, make note of it – it's a talent you have, and for most people a talent is where their heart is likely to be. You might have a reputation for being creative despite your job having little scope for this.

Also remember, these could be things your family and friends tell you you're good at – it doesn't have to be at work!

To summarise, if you want to connect to your heart when it comes to work, start thinking about these five areas – they will tell you a lot about the types of work, workplaces and work cultures that would be right for you. Doing this is really important. Work is more than half most people's waking lives. If it's as significant as that for you, then leaving your heart out of it is not a good idea!

Go reflect and connect...

Mark Eyre

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