You know the feeling you get when the ringing alarm jolts you out of your precious Monday morning sleep? The feeling that there is no point to getting out of bed because this week is just going to be like last week. And the week before that. And the one before that.
Aren’t you frustrated with waking up in the morning and wishing the whole day could go by in a blink? Aren’t you tired of yearning to get to the weekend so you may breathe a little?
The worst part is, you don’t even remember when your job turned into selling your soul in exchange for a paycheck.
Deep down, you know you are meant to do something more with your life. Something more meaningful, more enjoyable. But you don’t know where to begin. Maybe you don’t even believe it’s possible to find work that lights you up anymore.
But there is hope yet. Here are three ways to discover your inner values and let them guide you on the path to what you are truly meant to do.
1. Let your frustration guide you
You feel frustrated with your work because the reality doesn’t match up to your expectations. You expected your boss to be a kind, benevolent mentor. Instead, he is always taking credit for others’ hard work. You felt you deserved to get a 15% raise last year. But you only got 3%. You felt like you would be changing the world. Yet here you are, attending pointless meetings all day and scrolling through your Facebook feed just so you can make it to the end of the day.
This frustration and hopelessness has become endemic in today’s work culture. Most people have accepted this as the new normal and continue on with their lives.
But if you really want to find work you love, you have to start from the very core of who you are as a person. And your frustration can help you discover that core.
For example, if you feel you are underpaid, perhaps you value financial stability above other things. Your best decisions and actions stem from a sense of knowing you are financially secure. Or, if you feel you are just a glorified paper pusher, perhaps your primary value is meaningful work. You will do your best work and be most content when you feel like you are making a real difference in the world.
Pick the top three frustrations you have with your work and write down what you feel is the underlying, unfulfilled value. Once you recognize your deepest values, you will be one step closer to doing work that lights you up.
2. Let the past illuminate your way
Your best teacher will be your own experience. You can learn tips and strategies for whatever work you choose. But whether that work fulfills you is a question only your experience can answer.
That is why you must learn from your past experience. Here are a few questions to help you dig into your past to discover what kind work might light you up.
- What personal project did you start on the side that you really enjoyed, but had to abandon because you got too busy?
- What hobby do you still indulge in when you have free time?
- What do you love helping out your friends and co-workers with?
- What part of your work is never like work and you always look forward to doing it?
Dig deep and you should have a list of activities that you really enjoy doing – that leave you feeling more energized.
For example, if you enjoyed writing poetry (but have neglected it for lack of time), you might value creative output. If you started learning to code on the side (but had to abandon it when an urgent project came up at work), you might value learning and problem solving.
Make a list of activities you’ve enjoyed in the past, and write down what values they might have been fulfilling. These values will be your guide to taking pleasure in future opportunities. If a new project helps fulfill one or more of these values, you are sure to enjoy it.
3. Help others find and do work that lights them up
It is frustrating when you can’t work at something that is true to who you are, and see your values fulfilled. The same is true of people all around you. If you can help others find work that fulfills their values, it will be the most meaningful thing you can do. Helping other people wake up excited about their day will help you wake up excited about your day.
For example, if you value creative work and you enjoy writing poetry, can you find a way to help poets or poetry enthusiasts? You don’t necessarily have to write poetry yourself; just to find a way to contribute in the field of poetry. You could help put together a poetry convention, or organize a poets’ meeting. Of course, writing yourself will give you credibility in the field. But the most important part of doing work that lights you up is helping others find work that lights them up.
Finding the motivation to start doing work that lights you up
I used to go drinking with my buddies and we’d sit around with our beers, talking about how our bosses made our lives miserable. We’d make tall claims about what we would do when we quit our jobs. Then, we would go back to work on Monday, impatiently waiting for the next weekend.
Now, I don’t go drinking anymore. But my buddies still do, and they still sit around discussing the same things.
Me? I’m sitting here writing this post for you on a Friday evening. Because this is what I’ve found that I love doing.
I haven’t written any bestsellers yet. Nor do I make money from my writing. I write because I love it. My only reward is the privilege of doing something I love.
Once you have found what you love doing, that’s the only motivation you need.
You will always have that group of friends who want you to go drinking with them. Or the well- wishers who advise you to keep your head down and carry on because that’s the way it is for everybody. But you know yourself better than that. You know you’ll never rest easy unless you find meaningful and enjoyable work, that makes you feel you are making a difference in the world.
I believe you will find work that lights you up, because you know you deserve it. All you have to do is start. As the saying goes,
The best time to start was yesterday. The next best time is now.
Debashish Das wants to help people find freedom from their soul crushing 9 to 5 jobs, because he understands the pain of being stuck in a job he can’t escape. His blog aims to inspire people to find their passion and start living life on their own terms. And to help them get started on this journey he has written an ebook (click on the following link to get it for free), How To Quit Your Soul Sucking Job And Make A Living Without It.