Right livelihood crisis

by Bill Jones
(Perth, Australia)

The Question


At 24 I "fell" into a career as a government official. It was the depths of a recession and, as a new graduate out of work for a year, one had to take what one could get. Even at that age, I felt that "the emperor had no clothes" - the work I was doing did not seem to have nay real point to it. But, a job was a job and I put up with it because I needed to pay the bills.

Fast forward 10 years and I thought I had made my break. With my wife's encouragement, I got a job as a small town lawyer. It gave me an enormous sense of fulfilment but the pay was lousy compared to what I had been earning. Also, my wife and I lived apart until she got a job in the town as well. This never happened as her career as an IT professional was going ahead elsewhere.

Crisis time hit as we decided to start a family. I gave up my job and came back to the city where I fall back into the safety and security of well paid government work.

Fast forward eight more years. I had worked myself into a position where I could again pursue my dream. And then along comes the global financial crisis and my wife's company goes belly up. As an IT professional in a highly specialised field, jobs are very thin on the ground and, six months later, nothing.

So, I stay doing what I am doing. As a manager, I earn a good salary but the experience is soulless; paper shuffling for the sake of paper shuffling, and advocating passionately for things which I have never believed in. Worse, I have begun not to care anymore.

And another 20 years of this to go! Each time I have attempted to make the break, I have given up my dream for the good of the family or because to do otherwise would have seemed irresponsible and selfish. I am in my mid-40's and I feel like I want to run away from home. But this is not the responsible thing to do and I will undoubtedly stick with what I am doing.

We will retire comfortably, will send our children to good schools and have a good standard of living. Perhaps this is all that I can expect.

Noel's response

I admire your sense of responsibility in making sure your family is taken care of. However, I do not believe you need to be stuck in a soulless job.

The first thing to do is change your self-talk, from 'I can't do what I want', to 'how do I do what I want?'

Then, perhaps sit down with your whole family, and write a "quality of life" goal - describing all the conditions you want in your life (e.g. comfortable, affordable home, fulfilling work, good family relationships, a sense of living 'on purpose, etc.). Make sure everybody's voice is heard. DO NOT describe, in this part of the process, how to achieve the goals, only what they are.

Then explain the predicament you are in (you want to do something different, but don't know how to achieve it), and ask them (and maybe invite some friends over) to help you brainstorm all the ways you can live out the fulfilling life you choose.

There could be all kinds of ways to achieve this. Perhaps it can even be done while you continue work at the job you have now.

I left my job as a television news reporter and went back to university at age 42. Everybody thought I was either brave or crazy. I was simply following a clear life mission.

Although I had a couple of lean years financially (in fact at one point I ran completely out of money and credit, just before I finally got my new business - teaching Holistic Management to farm and ranch families - off the ground), I kept on pushing toward my goal, and came through just fine. You can to.

If you have no clear sense of life mission, you can find some help on my 'life mission' page here: Your Life Mission I recommend a personal/professional coach (you can find one here: The Coach Training Institute, or here: International Coach Federation. A coach can help you clarify your mission and goals, and guide toward achieving them.

And remember this expression from Goethe: “Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”

Good luck!

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