THE BLOG
10/08/2013 11:09 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Renewing Vows with Your Work

Do you remember the moment when your dream career or your chosen future asked for your hand in marriage? Did it kneel down gently and profess its love? Did it grab the back of your neck and say, "Stop screwing around, we need to do this now!"

Or did you realize one day you had silently agreed to this lover long, long ago and you didn't celebrate it, or even know it happened?

My vocational "I do" happened while listening to author/poet, David Whyte.

He said, "No one has to change, but everyone must have the conversation. And when real conversation occurs, change happens naturally."

That quote launched my career as an interpersonal communications specialist. It said everything I knew to be true, yet could not express in words.

Up until then, I believed a consultant or an expert had to have the "right" answers. They had to promise (and provide) tangible solutions to problems in order to gain credibility and get clients.

Who would have thought, the most crucial skill I needed was the ability to advance conversation beyond the superficial, to find words that are begging to be expressed, to offer solutions that are hidden just below the surface, to reveal potential blind spots or the elephant in the room.

And then sit back, listen quietly, contribute selectively and allow the chips to fall... knowing an important service had been rendered.

Heck, I'd been doing that naturally since 1st grade with great success and nauseous failure. This wasn't one of my celebrated qualities. I often felt lonely and longed for someone else to state what was obvious to me, so I wouldn't have to risk being disruptive, judged or wrong.

In David Whyte's book, The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship, he talks about being a guest lecturer at the University of Anchorage. Emerging from a wild blizzard into a lecture hall of unknown students, he hadn't prepared his speech at all.

In a slight moment of panic, he asked the class what they usually discussed. Someone put up their hand and said, "English composition." The topic floored him because "no serious writer ever thinks about English composition, and if he did it would mean he had temporarily lost his mind or his way as a writer."

He started to speak, knowing he had to find a different angle. After fumbling for a bit, he heard himself use the phrase, English decomposition.

Suddenly, the students were interested. He said, "I found myself talking about all the ways in which you have to break down and discompose your ordinary speech in order to say something real and worthwhile."

When I read that line, a stream of tears rolled down my cheek.

That's what's I've been teaching! That's what I've been practicing! That's what I believe is needed to make the difference we're genuinely seeking!

Now, I must ask you...

What do you need to keep pursuing your work?

What story can you tell that would explain your value?

Does your work marriage need to renew its vows?

David Whyte reminds us, "There is no possibility of pursuing a work without coming to terms with all the ways it is impossible to do it. Feeling far away from what we want tells us one of two things about our work: that we are at the beginning or that we have forgotten where we were going."