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Bold question: Are you doing what you want?

Dan Bobinski

Are you doing what you want in life, or are you living a lie? A bold question, but doing something you weren’t designed to do is often a road to frustration, depression, or worse.

Think of your career as mental nourishment, then ask yourself if your career is feeding your brain. If you’re coming up hungry, it might be time for change, even in this down economy.

You might be surprised to learn that the word vocation is rooted in the Latin word for “voice.” It’s why we say people “have a calling” when they’re obviously gifted in some area.

Parker Palmer, in his book Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, says, “Vocation does not come from willingness. It comes from listening.” He says we must listen to what our lives are telling us to do instead of what we think we want them to be about. To do otherwise, he says, means our lives “will never represent anything real in the world no matter how earnest [our] intentions.”

Ty Beaver is a speaker and an artist in northern Idaho who had such an epiphany several years ago. Being gifted as an artist, Ty enrolled in college to earn a degree in graphic design. But fear of not being able to support himself in that field led him to change his major. He graduated with a degree in business and went into the banking industry. For over 20 years Ty was highly successful in the eyes of those around him, but he came to realize he was living a lie. “I felt like a fake,” he says. “I never intended to go into banking. It just seemed like a good thing to do to make money, but it wasn’t who I really was. And I got stuck there for 20 years!”

Now an artist and a trainer, Ty is often seen wearing a beard and blue jeans, which looks strange to those who “knew him when.” When a former colleague ran into Ty at a coffee shop he shockingly asked “what happened?” Ty replied, “There’s nothing wrong – everything is great! What you see now is the real me.”

Such was not the fate of Joe (not his real name), who fell into working construction jobs during his college years to pay for school. When he graduated, he simply continued doing what he knew. He made good money, and even better money when he started his own contracting business.

But after several decades, Joe now says his work sucked the life out of him. He put forth maximum effort to be successful, but all that time at work meant time away from his family. It eventually led to a divorce and despair as Joe watched his world crumble around him. Tragically, at 50, Joe says he doesn’t even know what his real passions are – that he was too focused on being successful in the eyes of other people instead of being who he really was.

Tony, another person in the construction trades, realized in his mid-30s that he hated working construction. Rather than spend his life doing what he didn’t like, Tony took a job as custodian at the local school district so he could take time to figure things out. As it happened, Tony loved being of service to others and both the teachers and kids loved him.

Now in his 50s, Tony is still there, and he’s been the district’s employee of the year numerous times. He says, “It’s not what someone thinks of when they talk about success, but I love what I do and the people I do it for.”

For others, following their passion means taking a higher profile. As an example, Anne Little Roberts worked for years in the hospitality industry, but when the opportunity presented itself, she followed her passion for fitness and partnered with her husband to open a fitness club.

If true success comes from following your passion, the question is are you doing it? If you don’t know what your passion is, you’re not alone. Many people are never taught how to identify it, or they’re discouraged from following their passions, or, like Joe, they just “fall into” a career.

Well, in addition to creating art and selling it, Ty Beaver decided to reach out to people who are trying to identify their calling. His website LeadWithStrength.com is about helping people discover their God-given talents and abilities, master them, and use them in the service of others. It’s worth a look.

I realize that some business owners and managers don’t like this kind of thinking because it costs so much to replace employees if they leave. I get that. But I also believe the world is better off when people do what they were meant to be doing. If what you’re doing is not fulfilling, perhaps it’s time to discover your true vocation.

Dan Bobinski is a management trainer, best-selling author and director at the Center for Workplace Excellence. He makes his home in Boise. Reach him at (208) 375-7606 or dan@workplace-excellence.com.

About Dan Bobinski