They say when you’re on your deathbed, you will never look back and say ‘I wish I would have worked more’. I totally understand and appreciate the thought behind this sentiment but I also resonate with other thinkers and writers who give examples of when this might not be true. To summarize…if you are engaged in your calling, and appropriately balanced, it just might be the case that you can look back on your life with such satisfaction that you will wish you could have given even more. I know that’s what I want for me and my loved ones.
There have been some times in my life where I have encountered people that have been so influential that they have completely changed the trajectory of not only my career but my life. I believe that at the time, these influencers were acting in their calling and the result was a complete transformation not just for me, but for countless people. I think that were these people to look back on their lives, they might very well wish they could have had more opportunity to effect more transformations.
Admittedly, my experience is an extremely small sample, but what I have observed (and read) is that people who are making an impact and living a life of significance are usually operating in their calling, are not doing so solely for the money, and are appropriately balanced. They have resisted the urge to assimilate and chase what the rest of the world claims brings fulfillment and they have learned to say no to people and opportunities that are not serving their calling. I believe this is true whether you are a writer, a business leader, a parent, a teacher or anything else.
I also think that when you lose sight of any of the above, it can all come crashing down rather abruptly. The leader who transforms people’s lives out of the sheer joy he experiences from setting people free from fear can fall victim to fear himself and suddenly his gift becomes tainted as he becomes overly concerned about his own financial security. As he frantically tries to recreate past success, what once came naturally and was transformational become ineffective and shrieks of manipulation.
The magic of operating in your calling from a place of authenticity is intoxicating and powerful…and can absolutely not be faked. Leaving your calling and following the crowd and expecting to get the same joy results only in frustration, anxiety and depression as a continuing cycle of effort results in less and less satisfaction.
The solution is simple but unfortunately not safe and not easy. There are real risks associated with leaving the ‘secure’ corporate position to pursue your calling in an unstable economy. Most of your friends and family may think you slightly insane if not a full-on lunatic and they’re right that financial ruin could ensue. On the other hand, if you’ve identified a path that can lead to more fulfilling family relationships, flexibility to invest your time when and how you wish, and if you have a tolerance for financial insecurity and lack of conformity, the rewards may justify the risk.
I know for me, the question “What will I want to have done” is a good barometer when making tough decisions about my career. As someone who is fiercely competitive and achievement-driven AND a mom of three small kids, there are sometimes no easy answers. One thing I learned is that the traditional path will not accomplish everything that is in my heart to accomplish with regards to my kids and the impact I want to make on the rest of the world. And I’m not alone. There are countless people in my circumstances and other ones that have so much to contribute, but not at the expense of their values, family, or self-respect.
When I look back I hope I only regret that I wasn’t able to do more of what I’m doing – not that I did something completely different. Today, that feels true, and that is a good place to be. How about you?