This is a common myth in our culture: “It’s Just My Job That Needs to Change, Then Everything Will Be All Better.” Believing this and planning on it may lead you down a too-narrow path, that will not satisfy your desire for real change and lasting fulfillment.
Here’s a true client story I call, “Mr. Smith Goes to Cooking School.” I hope this will help you see why you’ll want a whole life perspective.” Daniel Smith came into coaching with a popular lament. “My job is making me miserable.”
I just need to find a new job and that’s it.” We met to launch his coaching, exploring his needs, goals, getting to know more about his life, values, what made him tick and so on. Daniel was getting impatient and a bit crispy around the edges, having been to career counseling, therapy and still fed up with his job and frustrated at the absence of any breakthrough.
I remember thinking that this might be a tough challenge for both of us. I really liked Daniel and my soul wanted to see him feeling more alive and fulfilled. I was listening for any seeds of passions or inklings of callings during our two-hour-plus discussion.
Daniel’s responses were somewhat flat and not all that illuminating. He wasn’t hostile, just understandably cynical and shut down by now. A pre-meeting package included questions like “What would you do if you won the lottery?” and then “What would you do if you discovered you had one year to live?” He had left these blank.
As we were putting on our coats to leave, this tiny voice from behind his collar said, “I know what I’d do if I won the lottery.” My ears perked up and I leaned in with holding-my-breath anticipation.
Finally, we might have a nibble toward a potentially meaningful revelation. Daniel sheepishly eked out, “I’d go to cooking school.”
My heart jump started a bit. In the presence of a fellow human being’s true heart’s desire, one’s own heart experiences a little energy charge. As a coach my heart becomes like a divining rod, listening and sensing for sparks of a client’s true spirit.
To fast forward the story, coaching supported Daniel in exploring cooking school options, how to make arrangements for work, secure financing and so on. He enrolled in an evening and weekend culinary arts program.
Coaching also helped him be in touch with his core values, and how to make more conscious choices to proactively create fulfillment.
Now, here’s where the plot thickens and gets to the core point of this story. Daniel came to coaching calls reporting, “Marian, the funniest things are happening…My job really isn’t so bad lately…I’m getting along with my mother better…I’ve met someone and we’re hitting it off exceedingly well.
Other positive shifts continued. Over several months time, Daniel and I agreed that there was an intriguing synergy going on. By honoring his cooking school calling, Daniel fostered a shift in positive energy that began infiltrating the rest of his life.
The life lesson for all of us is this: Energy spreads and a whole life perspective matters. The other vital wisdom is about starting with your heart (not trying to fix the one thing your head tells you to correct).
It’s fair to say that if Daniel’s job was feeling toxic, that negative energy was infecting other areas of life for a general malaise.
It was much more fun to watch how his investment in loving himself enough to pursue the heart’s desire of cooking school spread positive energy into other life areas. This made the job change less pressing if not irrelevant.
For Daniel, it was not paramount that he make a living with cooking. In fact, the more he researched this, the less appealing it became as a career choice. What mattered most was his ability to know himself and create a rewarding whole life. Coaching equipped him to keep making optimal choices in tune with his true spirit.
For some people, a new job (or some other external change) could be absolutely the right next choice. However, it’s always worth probing more deeply to see if changes in perspectives, behaviors and other aspects of your work and life could create the shift you seek in more enduring ways than just a change of carpeting to another job, relationship or condo.
In coaching it’s smart to play dumb, not knowing what the heck might create a breakthrough and not get caught up in assumptions (like insisting that a new job is an answer to all your woes). I encourage you to not assume you have the solutions all figured out. Being curious and wide open will serve you well moving forward.
It’s also important to remember to not put all of your fulfillment and identity eggs into only one basket. We need to consciously spread our fulfillment across multiple sources or contexts.
Daniel’s story also reminds me of holistic health perspectives vs. western medicine. If we had only focused on surgically removing the “bad job” and not looked at the rest of Daniel’s life, his thought habits and soul’s yearnings, we would have missed out on the breakthroughs that seemed to sneak in through side doors.
Even if you know precisely which aspect of your life you want to zero in on, please keep in mind a whole life perspective. The synergy can be magical or noxious. Each part of your life has a potential domino effect on everything else.