Considering how much time most adults will spend in the workplace over the course of their lives (an estimated 25-30 years), it doesn't take much of a stretch to surmise a person's choice of career plays a significant role in their sense of happiness.
I believe a fulfilling career is something you have the power to create, moment by moment, year by year, and decade by decade. Just as success rarely happens overnight, deriving a healthy amount of satisfaction from the work that you do requires the right mindset.
I recently read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. (The same author that wrote Eat, Pray, Love - you may have heard of that little movie!) She shares her wisdom regarding the choice each of us has between saying yes or no when inspiration strikes. She writes about clearing out obstacles which are preventing you from living your most creative life, understanding that "whatever is bad for you is probably also bad for your work."
There are so many wonderful truths that she offers, but one of my favorites is found on page 63, where she says: "Work with all of your heart because - I promise - if you show up to work day after day after day after day, you just might get lucky enough some random morning to burst right into bloom."
Here are five of my tips to contemplate as you reach for your goals.
1. Operate in an area that brings you joy.
The time investment and dedication required to achieve a level of success in your chosen field can feel crippling if you don't enjoy the work. Robert Frank of The New York Times said in a recent article: "My point is that becoming an expert is so challenging that you are unlikely to expend the necessary effort unless the task is one that you love for its own sake. If it is, the process will be rewarding apart from whether it leads to high pay."
2. Identify your natural strengths.
Whether you're walking into your first interview or reevaluating your long term calling, get in tune with what you're naturally gifted to do. Perhaps you're an excellent communicator, keenly observant, or willing and able financially to take a few risks. If you haven't saved the money, or might jeopardize your rent or kid's school, don't quit your day job until you are ready.
However, don't give up. Keep making music, pounding the pavement, drawing the mountain, singing the song, learning the craft, rolling up your sleeves, and putting your head down. Everything you are learning is a stepping stone to something else. My mentor used to say, a job pays the rent, a passion feeds your soul. I believe you can have both - but not always as soon as you would like.
3. Acknowledge your areas of weakness but don't let it stop you.
Just own it. When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a singer - although according to my mother, I couldn't carry a note. I was an incredible tap dancer (according to my grandmother), and when I was given the chance to tap AND sing in a recital at the mature age of 6, I went for it. My dance instructor bypassed my mother's insistence that I should not go out and "embarrass" myself. Embarrass myself? I was incredible - what was she talking about? I was too young to really comprehend what she meant, but my soul did.
My mother clearly didn't share my self-confidence. But...it didn't matter to me! On the day of the recital, I bolted onto the stage with miles of tulle and pounds of sequins, lots of pink lipstick, and big bows on my tap shoes, and belted out the BEST song and dance of my life. I was loud and proud, and I felt complete and total mastery. I looked out into the audience and saw my family stand up and cheer - except for my mom who was coyly shaking her head and smiling knowingly. It registered. Shortly after that day, I lost interest and quit singing. And tap dancing.
For years, I felt a tiny little void but couldn't put my finger on it. But life is funny, and I was constantly put in random, often uncomfortable positions to use my voice...elementary school, high school, college, and beyond. My spirit simply would not let me quit. I was offered opportunities that were far out of my comfort zone, and I accepted the challenge. It's no coincidence I am in a position today that pays me to speak - some may still hate it, but others stand up and cheer. I may never be a great singer, but that doesn't stop me from belting it out LOUD and proud!
4. Establish what is most important to you.
For some people, a high-energy workplace is incredibly motivating. They emerge from meetings energized and brimming with new ideas. Others perform better in a quiet space where they can take ownership of a very specific project or craft as they work independently. If you realize you're an introvert in a sea of extroverts (or vice versa), a productive and open conversation with your supervisor about how you operate best can make a world of difference.
Your workplace priorities will change as your circumstances evolve. For example, the ability to telecommute may be top of your list when your children are younger, or you need the extra flexibility, later you may find what you crave most is interacting with colleagues face-to-face. You may have dreamed of a corner office when you were in college and now long for a career where traveling and meeting new people is the norm.
5. Go for it, stick with it, or as my dad always used to remind me to do when I was younger: finish what you start.
We all have the capacity for great ideas, but only a few will see them through to the end. Acknowledge the value of doing the job - big or small, regardless of the title or the pay. Every effort has merit. A promotion may not happen this quarter or this year, but if you love the work you do and are working towards a goal, you're on the right track.
Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way, posted a blog June 3, 2016, titled: We Do Not Outgrow Our Dreams. She says, "Sometimes our dreams seem so far out of reach that we discount them before we begin. But if we are willing to look for supportive mentors and able to recognize them when we meet them, we will move ahead. We just have to find the courage to speak up and ask for help." Ask for help and if something is really important to you, see it through until the end.
Take, for instance, the goal of learning a second or third language. It may sound exciting, empowering, and even romantic. Staying the course without getting discouraged and throwing in the towel will be worth it in the end. Even failures are valuable lessons, and it's better to have tried and bombed than to sit still and watch others experience the incredibly important highs and lows that make up an interesting life.
To close with another quote from Elizabeth Gilbert: "Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart."
Loving your work and living a full life requires intention, action, and a good dose of Big Magic! You'll understand after you read Gilbert's book.
You may also like Take A Moment To Make Your World Better. For more of Diane's etiquette tips, visit her blog, connect with her here on The Huffington Post, "like" The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, or follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.