What do work horses and most people pursuing a career change have in common?

They both wear blinders.

Let me explain.

Several years ago, my family and I had a CSA— Community Supported Agriculture— share at a farm that used workhorses to plow and harvest their vegetable fields (shout out to Natural Roots farm in Conway, Massachusetts!). My toddler-at-the-time, Kai, and I loved to watch them plow the fields, slowly walking back and forth. 

To help them focus on what was ahead of them and not be distracted by what was beside or behind them, the horses wore blinders or firm leather cups on their hood.

As if they were wearing blinders, most people pursuing a career change are only aware of a small part of the picture of what they want to call into their lives.

When asked if they want a life that’s in alignment with all the parts of who they are, of course they’d say yes. Unfortunately, most people do not take the time to take a holistic view of what they want, and there are lots of good reasons why not. 

However, there are plenty of equally compelling reasons to remove the blinders and take a good look at all of the ingredients you want to incorporate into your life. 

You want to make sure you make good use of your time, rather than expending lots of energy finding a new job, without first knowing what you truly want. Unless all the pieces are attended to, your career change might feel good for a while, but it most likely will not lead you to an overall fulfilled life.

Supporting my clients through countless career changes, I’ve found that there are five pieces of the work-life design puzzle that we each must attend to in order to feel truly fulfilled.

What are these pieces of the work-life design puzzle?

A deeply fulfilling life is in alignment with the following elements— 

1. Your Core Values.

Your values are the principles that you believe are most important for you to live by. They articulate who and how you long to be. When you’re not true to your values, you’re apt to feel anxious, exhausted, or just plain uncomfortable, like you’re wearing clothes that don’t fit you. But when you live by your values, you feel like you can be fully yourself, no matter what you’re doing.

2. The Gifts You Bring and Those You’re Excited to Cultivate.

Many people are taught to brush off compliments and downplay their strengths. But if you do this, it becomes much harder for you to create work in which you can share your strengths fully. Your strengths and skills are gifts that life has entrusted to you, and when you acknowledge the gifts you’ve received, you can get clearer about how to share them in service with the world. And, you can also recognize your gaps in learning and identify the strengths you still need, not from a place of lack but with excitement.

3. Your Ideal Day and Working Conditions.

This piece of the puzzle is about how you’d like to spend your time and what your ideal working conditions look like— your ideal schedule, where you want to work, and who you want to work with.

4. Your Money Needs.

Money is an important ingredient when it comes to designing a nourished and fulfilled life. To get clear on your path ahead, it’s important to understand how much money you want to earn in the next phase of your life.

5. Who You’ve Called to Serve.

Most great callings are about serving a purpose that is greater than ourselves. This piece of the puzzle is about identifying the group or groups of people who you want to serve, what they long for, and how you can best be of service. And this requires being in conversation with the people you want to serve because serving a purpose is not about something that you do to or for other people; it is something that you do with other people. 

Gathering the pieces to your work-life puzzle usually takes more time than we have together in this blog post. 

But you can ask yourself a few revelatory questions in the next ten minutes. 

If you feel curious about gathering the pieces to your puzzle, I invite you to grab a pen and a piece of paper. Then, set a timer to make sure that you give yourself an entire two minutes per item. Here you go—

  1. Imagine you’re ninety years old and looking back at your life. Ask your ninety-year-old self— Which values are you proud and grateful to have lived by? 
  2. What do you genuinely appreciate about yourself? Think strengths, skills, talents, knowledge, training, experience, and so forth.
  3. What would an ideal day look like for you, assuming you still needed to work?
  4. How much money do you need to feel nourished and fulfilled? (This question might take less than two minutes, or answering it may require a longer journey of getting clear on your money situation and needs.)
  5. What do you want to take a stand for in this next phase of your life? Who do you feel most deeply called to serve? 

I’m so curious to hear what you discovered! If you feel called, please share something that you discovered by asking yourself these questions in the comments section below.

Taking off the blinders and looking closely at what you long for isn’t the only step to crafting work you love, but it is an essential step. I wish you lots of courage as you continue to explore each of these puzzle pieces and move forward toward a work-life you love.

Much love,

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