This post is inspired by my morning reading, where a wise and curious (perhaps two sides of the same coin!) kitty joined me in my pondering.
This question, "How can I do meaningful work and how do I make money while doing it?" has been asked by me at least 1,000 times and almost every single client I have worked with.
So as I read the opening and first chapter of Sacred Economics this morning, it brought me right back to that familiar question.
Some context about what I’m reading:
I first encountered Charles Eisenstein’s work through his book “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.” Reading that book was one of the first times in my life I felt that my uneasiness with the systems we are living in and living out was valid.
I no longer felt crazy that I felt out of place trying to fit into the chaos of growth for the sake of growth or the”hustle and grind” mentality of the startup world (and our current economic system). If you haven't read it, I highly recommend!
So now, I’ve got Sacred Economics in my hands and I’m diving in and it’s got me really thinking and nodding my head "YES!"
Here are some powerful snippets from Chapter 1:
“It is ironic indeed that money, originally a means of connecting gifts with needs, originally an outgrowth of a sacred gift economy, is now precisely what blocks the blossoming of our desire to give, keeping us in deadening jobs out of economic necessity, and forestalling our most generous impulses with the words, “I can’t afford to do that.” We live in an omnipresent anxiety, borne of the scarcity of the money which we depend on for life -- witness the phrase, “the cost of living.” Our purpose for being, the development and full expression of our gifts, is mortgaged to the demands of money, to making a living, to surviving. Yet no one, no matter how wealthy, secure, or comfortable, can ever feel fulfilled in life where those gifts remain latent. Even the best-paid job, if it does not engage our gifts, soon feels deadening, and we think “I was not put here on earth to do this.” Even when a job does engages our gifts, if the purpose is something we don’t believe in, the same deadening feeling of futility arises again, the feeling that we are not living our own lives, but only the lives we are paid to live. “Challenging” and “interesting” are not good enough, because our gifts are sacred, and therefore meant for a sacred purpose.”
Whoah. Read. That. Again.
In the years I’ve been coaching, the most prominent reason that people have sought me out is to find more meaning in their lives and work. That feeling of discomfort knowing “I was not put on earth to do this” can be nagging at best, and heart-breaking or life-sucking at worst.
One of the most worthy endeavors I believe we undertake as humans is to find and make meaning in our lives. One of the most worthy endeavors I have found in my own life and work is to support people on that journey.
This has lead me to some questions I’ve asked myself as I’ve been diving deeper into this exploration with clients and myself:
Does that mean my job has to be the most meaningful aspect of my life? I think the answer is no. Sometimes we actually have to just work to live.
And sometimes we can make meaning where we don’t immediately see it. The low hanging fruit is, how do we make our jobs more meaningful right where we already are. I have loved Hidden Brain’s episode on this.
If work doesn’t have to be the most meaningful aspect of our lives, does that mean we should give up on exploring our gifts and doing meaningful work in our lives altogether? Or give up on finding a way to share our gifts while also getting paid? Not at all.
Have you seen the statistics about retired people? A recent Washington Post piece says this:
“Over the past two decades, dozens of studies have shown that seniors with a sense of purpose in life are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, mild cognitive impairment, disabilities, heart attacks or strokes, and more likely to live longer than people without this kind of underlying motivation. Now, a report in JAMA Psychiatry adds to this body of evidence by showing that older adults with a solid sense of purpose tend to retain strong hand grips and walking speeds — key indicators of how rapidly people are aging.”
Read the full article here.
We ALL must find a meaningful way to feel useful, in order to live healthy and well. That meaning is different for everyone. Some will turn that into a financially supportive career, others will do that as a part of their family systems or communities, other will find it through hobbies or volunteer efforts.
As it relates to the job, these feelings of anxiety, of not wanting to simply live the life we were was paid to live, those are REAL. Those feelings are part of what lead me to venture out on my own and attempt to shape a different model of living for myself and in turn, help guide and support others in that. I firmly believe as careers are dramatically shifting, companies are going to have to do a better job at connecting their employees to things that matter, if they want to keep them around.
So if you, like me have felt (are feeling!) that anxiety of wanting something more meaningful in life and work, if you are on the journey to make meaning with your life and are feeling the painfulness of the mundane, day to day tasks that don’t feel they matter. If you’re not using your strengths and gifts. If you’re not lit up in your life and you’re feeling you want to explore your gifts and find more meaning and purpose in your life and work, it is possible. I have worked with dozens of clients to help them discover what is meaningful to them and connect those dots. If you're interested in learning more about this, tell me a little bit about yourself and let’s chat!