What would I do? An exercise in Finding-Your-Passion
Most of us have fallen into our career. While the proportion of vocational to non- vocational degrees fluctuates, most people still end up in a career that just happened. They left school or college and looked around for a while, until eventually someone said to someone else, that Fred or Freda were looking for a job and sooner or later we started work. Of course, some are more driven - some students enter a frenzy of job hunting when they probably could be spending more time on their coursework - and there are some assumptions about where certain types of student will apply. Fundamentally, though, most of us fall into a career without understanding why.
Down the line, ten, twenty, even thirty years later, we find ourselves in a more reflective space and wonder if there isn't something we'd rather do. Of course, for some this is after other significant life events, for some it reflects a change in circumstances - both positive and negative.
For those who have a religious persuasion, the question often becomes one of "What is my 'calling'?" This is the origin of the word, vocation - an early 15th century Latin term for 'spiritual work'.
For people with some kind of spiritual orientation - where they believe in the interconnectedness of life without necessarily the need for a guiding Force - the issue often becomes one of wanting to do something that has a bigger impact - that 'makes a difference'.
For both of these groups, exercises can be used to help them explore their internal sense of what would make them feel fulfilled in their working life. There are examples of this kind of exercise elsewhere in this series. [But hang on for a minute and try this one out too as it works for you as well!]
Of course, not everyone wants to be altruistic - there are many who are happy to do what they need to do to provide security for their family and, beyond what I'll call a reactive humanity where they help people in immediate need, do not wish to engage in making things better for others.
Regardless of the bigger issues, faced with the uncertainty of the work that we are currently, or have recently, done, many people get locked into this field or type of work because they can't see any escape. "I would love to change what I do, but..." and then a torrent of constraining factors emerge - "paying the mortgage", "supporting the family", "when the children leave home", "when I've paid off my debts", "when we move", "because of my husband/wife/partner" and so on.
So, this is a simple reflective exercise. It calls for a piece of paper, a writing tool (pen or pencil), and a little time spent reflecting. I suggest that you put the simple title in the middle of the page ("WWID?"). Now spend a few DAYS, walking around with this piece of paper in your pocket or somewhere prominent.
IF YOU HAD NONE OF THOSE CONSTRAINTS, and I really mean JUST IGNORE THEM, then what WOULD you do? Not a list of all kinds of fatuous activities that you'd engage in but jobs, and the qualities of jobs, that there's a bit of you would like to do.
I'd like to work with animals. I'd like to work in the House of Lords. I'd like to work in an 'emergency' field. I'd like to do something with sports. I'd like to have a regular pattern to my work. I'd like to work in a more creative environment. I'd like to work outdoors. I'd like to work somewhere sunnier.
You'll notice that all of those examples begin with the phrase "I'd like to...". Try it. Free from the constraints, what would you LIKE to do?
Don't expect the answer to emerge (though for a few people it has) but allow yourself some free rein. It is in the analysis of these responses that patterns emerge and inspiration comes forwards.
A short history lesson (only in case you are interested)!
There's a theme, which appears in some branches of Christianity, known as Christian socialism. It's a common mistake among cultural Christians to assume that all 'practicing' ones should be 'socialists' and they often find it hard to reconcile the behaviour of the more conservative and right wing Christians with this belief.
At the more extreme end of the Christian socialist ideology are those who believe that avarice, greed, and capitalism (yes, capitalism) are mortal sins. The term, Christian Socialist, has been around for over 150 years, and some quite famous people have been associated with it, such as Charles Kingsley (author of The Water Babies) and Thomas Hughes (who wrote Tom Brown's Schooldays). Formally organised into the Christian Socialist Movement, it became a significant voice in British politics in the late 1980s and 1990s, and today it has over 40 members in the House of Commons and House of Lords, including former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.
An early American Christian Socialist, Charles Sheldon, wrote a book in 1896 entitled In His Steps which was subtitled; "What would Jesus do?" The book is a moral tale exploring the transformation of a number of practising Christians who were either unthinking or right-wing or both, into Christian socialists. One of the tools used for this transformation is the rhetorical question; "What would Jesus do?"
In 1993, the great-grandson of the original author, Garrett W Sheldon and Deborah Morris, published a modern-day re-interpretation of the book, and fuelled a resurgence of interest in the principles of Christian Socialism. Spawned by a grassroots movement out of Michigan, and especially among evangelical Christians, the motto "What would Jesus Do?" became very popular. Coinciding with the emergence of plastic 'friendship' bracelets and their use as entrance tickets for large pop concerts and festivals, many followers of this movement wore bands with the initials "WWJD?" on them. The movement continues, and in 2010, a movie was released entitled "WWJD" starring country music artist, Adam Gregory.
What's a snowclone?
Today, "WWJD" has become, what linguists call, a snowclone - a template for phrases that tap into an, often unconscious and often culturally related, memory of something else thereby giving it credibility.
Thus "WWJD" has led to such variants as; "What would Reagan do?", "What would Johnny Cash do?", "What would Einstein do?", "What would Barbie do?" and so on. The variants have different degrees of political sophistication in their definition!
This is one of a growing number of posts that will ultimately form the basis of a new 'product' - Finding Your Passion. Many people approach me for job hunting support, yet they don't really know what they want to do. For some time I have run short workshops both in-house (for a very enlightened company) and as public programmes in the City of London, however, I am working on expanding this process and writing about it in a new publication. If you feel that you fall into this 'camp' then give me a call - I can still help!
Please don't forget to download my ebook, "The Senior Executive's Emergency Job Hunt", and take me up on the offer of free job hunt review.
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