Most of us have jobs that are too small for our spirits.
~ Studs Terkel
Before I started my current business, I was working in a profession I grew to despise. It didn’t start out that way. In the beginning, I loved much about it – the learning curve, the creative aspects, and the people I collaborated with. But over time, I felt increasingly constrained by my work.
According to a variety of public opinion research, it is reported that anywhere from 50 to 80% of employees have some high level of dissatisfaction with their jobs. We don’t need an official report to tell us this, however, if we just talk to the people we know, we find out the same information.
In my current work, 100% of the people I serve are dissatisfied with their jobs. Of course, the reason for that statistic is because what I do is help people discover their inspired work and they are only coming to me because they have been unhappy in their job. After years of working with people struggling with this same problem, I have been able to distill it down to one reason why anyone hates their job:
Their job doesn’t allow for the full expression of who they really are.
If our jobs do not provide the opportunities to express our full selves, then we will never be satisfied. We tend to forget we are expansive beings. As we move through life, our experiences grow us, but if our job is unable to evolve with us, eventually we will outgrow it. If we attempt to continue in the same limited role, it will be restrictive.
In my situation, at first I blamed the work itself for my angst. With the benefit of hindsight, I now understand that the work wasn’t the problem, it was how I was choosing to show up in my work. It was easy to hide behind my desk, churn out projects, and complain about doing other people’s bidding. It was less easy to take responsibility for the fact that it wasn’t them holding me back, it was me who was choosing to play small.
When I was quiet enough to listen, I heard a voice inside of me whispering, “You have more to give. You have a message to share. There is something for you to create.” But because I didn’t know what this “more” was, I tried to ignore my inner guidance. We all know that never goes well.
Inevitably for me, playing small became suffocating. My inaction led to depression. I was desperate to free myself from my self-imposed shell, but I still didn’t know what my “more” was. I did know that to ever have a sense of fulfillment in my work, it needed to incorporate more of who I was. At that time I only had a dim awareness of the totality of my being, so I embarked on an inner journey of discovery to find out.
It took several long years to come to clarity about what I had to give and the message I wanted to share. It took even longer to bring my inspired work into the world. The satisfaction I receive from doing work now that makes best use of my gifts is tremendous. Inspired work is about more than just being satisfied, however. It is the work that allows you to express the fullness of who you really are. It is a dynamic container for sharing yourself with the world, and as you continue to expand as a being, your work grows with you.
The next time you find yourself hating your job, ask yourself where you are playing small. Give yourself permission to expand and bring more of who you are into the world through your work. When you do, I would then like to poll you on your level of job satisfaction. I bet you would change the statistics.