Can you name one moment in time that started a chain reaction to transport you to where you are today? I can, and this month I thought I would share.
My family was living in Green River, Wyoming, and I was doing what most moms with young children do – juggle; work, home, kids, activities. I had a great job, healthy kids, a solid marriage – all the key ingredients to a very fulfilling life, right? But I had lost my spark. I had lost my energy. I had lost my PASSION. How does that happen? Maybe some of you can relate. I had gotten so busy living life – doing all the things I thought I was supposed to do, I had forgotten how to live.
Back then I was teaching in the developmental studies program at a community college, and part of my job was working with non-native English learners. Some of them where here on student visas or living in Wyoming and building a life in the US. They were from many areas of the world. There were Mexicans and South Americans, but also Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, and even a few Eastern European mail order brides who had be selected by a local man to fill the spot of wife in a community where internet dating was just starting to take off. Sounds interesting, right? It was! And often I was challenged with new views and cultures that were very different from my own.
So, how did I get from community college instructor to business owner? I believe the catalyst was a statement, an observation, really, by a Brazilian students. He was living in Wyoming because his wife had come to the college on a teaching exchange. He was well educated and affluent. He had been in Wyoming for about two years at the time. Not only did I teach English, basic writing and conversation, but we also discussed culture. When discussing work culture he very clearly made this observation regarding the US.
“You” (Americans), he said, “live to work, while we (Brazilians) only work to live.”
He went on to say Americans typically have two weeks of vacation, at least for the first few years in a job. In Brazil they always have at least 6 weeks. He observed that most Americans talk about work, even when not at work, socialize with work people, even take work home – never seeming to be able to get it all done at the office. While in his country people left the office and went to see family or friends and rarely took work home preferring to enjoy the evening playing games or having a leisurely dinner. Americans would “choose” overtime so they could buy more or go somewhere great for the weekend, while his coworkers rarely worked over – perhaps they didn’t have the option – and had less “stuff”. When they traveled they stayed inexpensively but for a much longer time – really taking in the culture of the place they visited.
This thought rolled around in my head for the whole winter semester – and still challenges me today. I really see two meanings to his statement – one where living to work is tiring – like a robot. And working only to live is carefree – just working enough to have the necessities to be able to play – to really enjoy life with zeal. This, I believe, was his intended meaning. However, I see another way of looking at this. One where the first part looks more like the expression that goes something like this.
“If you love what you do, you will never work another day in your life.”
I would suggest that there is a balance between these two ideals. In the US we spend a third of our lives at work. So really enjoying it would certainly be a benefit, wouldn’t you agree?
In my case, at that time in my life, the first meaning was a better description of me - I was living to work – with no energy or passion towards it. His observation hit home and moved me to search for a change. When I decided to transition from teacher to entrepreneur, it was not that I wanted to work less. In fact, I didn’t quit my job when I started my business. I continued to work for two and a half years, full time and added in my business like a part time job. But it was that CHANGE that sparked in me a passion for life again! I became aware that I had choices – that just because I had a degree in education and a good job did NOT mean I had to stay in that place forever. Just because I had committed to this committee or that, didn’t mean they had me for life – these were all MY CHOICES. I rediscovered my personal power. No one had me handcuffed. My business helped me focus on managing not only my time and money, but also being aware of my emotions and thoughts, the people I spent time with and the books, music, and media I allowed into my space. It was a rebirth!
Energy and passion doesn’t have to come from the job you hold or your life circumstances –I bet we can all name people in positions of waitress to doctor that we would deem passionate about their job. They have gusto for life! When I got really clear that I was in charge of my energy and passion and started paying attention to what effected them, my zeal for life returned!
How about you? Are you loving what you do and doing what you love? Or are you just going through the motions, getting through each day and waiting for Friday to arrive? If you have lost your passion I would encourage you to spend some time in reflection. Think about how you are spending your time – and with whom. Find a great self-improvement book or take up a new hobby. Revive a forgotten friendship or rediscover your spouse or your children. You don’t have to change careers to re-energize your life, but you may have to be OPEN TO CHANGE.