To me, finding spiritual growth in my career means aligning my day-to-day work with my life’s work.
It’s doing work that excites me and allows me to create my own unique difference in the world — quieting the noise and need for security, success, and external validation and instead following the intentions of my heart.
It requires me to make career decisions not primarily based on money or security, but based on what makes my soul come alive.
LETTING GO OF THE DESIRE FOR SUCCESS
As a high-achiever and life-long goal-setter, letting go of the desire for success is SO difficult. I’ve been driven by achievement my whole life. And now, I’m realizing I may need to let go of something that I believe has helped me to get to where I am today.
It feels unnatural and terrifying to change my north star from “success” to something different: Impact. Fulfillment. Growth.
This doesn’t mean I’ll stop setting goals and striving to give my very best. It’s simply changing the WHY behind my hard work.
To be honest, I don’t know how to do this yet… But I’m working on it. Writing this is a baby step toward observing my thoughts about my career and catching myself when I think I’m starting to drift again toward craving external validation, security, and material success.
I admit I’m addicted to achievement, and staying mindful of my true north star will be a difficult lifelong practice.
Instead of chasing success and the next rung of the career ladder, what if I could just BE. Just press pause on the rat race, get still, and think about what I want my life’s work to be about. Would I end up contributing more value to the world if I choose to do work that I love? Would I feel more fulfilled, even without the steady salary, title, or recognition?
What would it look like to speak authentically from the heart, and let that voice shine through the work I do and the causes I support?
My career could then become a powerful vessel that serves others around the world, while serving my own personal and spiritual growth.
IS THIS REALISTIC?
I realize this path is not a luxury all of us feel we have today. But this reality may be closer than we think.
A British philosopher, Alan Watts, posed the question: “What if we live in a world where money is no object?” (You can watch his short talk on YouTube here). “How would you really enjoy spending your life?”
If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing. Which is stupid! Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way. — Alan Watts
Advocates from around the world including Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Stephen Hawking have been supporting the idea of universal basic income, a system where the government gives all citizens a guaranteed sum of money to cover basic needs.
In a world where poverty is rising and tens of millions of jobs will be replaced by automation, they believe universal basic income can be a solution to eliminate poverty.
Though the concept is controversial, it brings up an interesting question. What if we did have the luxury, and safety net, to choose to do work we love and spend our time on the causes we care about — when the fear of not having enough money to live stably is removed?
If you could make career decisions based on love, not fear… Abundance, not scarcity… Trust, not security…. What would your career look like?
When a decision is based in fear, it can be rooted in insecurity, jealousy, the need to please, the need to look good or be accepted, or imposter syndrome. When a decision is based in love, it can show up as abundance, gratitude, and compassion. We need to consciously shift our intentions, acting and speaking out of love, not fear.
It’s easier said than done — a daily practice, and a constant struggle.
HOW CAN SPIRITUAL GROWTH FIT INTO A CAREER?
So here is the question I’ve been asking myself…
Is it possible to pursue a thriving career that also maximizes your spiritual growth?
At first, I felt like my professional goals put me at war with my own spiritual growth. My hunger for financial stability and success pushed me towards certain roles and career paths, while my deepest passions pulled me in an opposite direction.
Fear made me hesitate.
I was afraid to leave my career opportunities and friends in San Francisco to travel the world. But this trip has been calling to me for years. It’s not just about travel to me — it’s a deeply spiritual journey, an opportunity to follow the curiosities of my heart, professionally grow, and connect with people from all over the world.
I was afraid to launch my blog, because who cares what I have to say? But I’ve always loved the creative process of writing and pouring my soul out on paper. If this post inspires just one person, it would be enough to me.
From a young age, I’ve been fascinated by spirituality. Many of the greatest experiences and decisions in my life feel guided by a deeper intuition and longing. But sometimes, I quiet that voice because of fear: wanting to fit in, be accepted, and pursue success.
Many of us spend the majority our waking lives working. How can we spend that precious time making a difference in the world, serving others through our passions, and unleashing our authentic selves? If we can find a way to do that through our work, I believe there is a way to make our modern career a seamless part of our spiritual path.
WHAT ABOUT PROFIT?
It seems wrong to talk about profit on the topic of pursuing spiritual growth. But by following your heart’s intentions, I believe you will profit immensely. When success is not your north star, when you aim for impact and contribution to others — your life becomes abundant. Because the more you give to others through your work, the more you will get in return.
Money itself is not bad, but profit isn’t just about money. When you do your life’s work, you’ll feel so rich in time, fulfillment, the impact you make in others’ lives, the amazing people who surround and support you, and the freedom to live the way you choose. And coincidentally, when you dedicate your time to what you love, you’re likely to become a master at it. Money will come, but it becomes an afterthought.
In the future economy, you will not do things for personal profit but for personal growth, which will be your profit. — Neale Donald Walsch
When you do what truly excites you, doors will start flying open. And if there is no door, you’ll find the energy and persistence to barge straight through the wall until one does.
Then, a spiritual life CAN be profitable. It can be playful, fun, and anything you want it to be. It can be self-serving — that is, serving the higher Self and other souls in this world.
HOW TO CREATE A CAREER THAT ENABLES SPIRITUAL GROWTH
It’s up to us to design a modern career that complements and accelerates our spiritual growth. To get started, here are some questions that may help identify your life’s work:
- What is something you’ve always wanted to do but were afraid to try? Abandon the fears, get quiet, and listen to your heart. The exact role or project does not matter as much as the fact that you are making decisions based on your intuition. If you feel restless or suffocated, it might be a signal to course-correct.
- What are your skills? These can be innate talents and professional skills. Which skills contribute the most value to others? What activities feel most meaningful and immersive to you?
- What new skills do you want to gain? Tangible, intangible? What types of work will allow you to practice those skills?
- What qualities and values do you want to cultivate in your life? How can you bring those out in your work and practice them with the people you do business with? For example, these qualities can be mindfulness, vulnerability, and compassion. Choose values that feel core to you.
- Where do your strongest skills intersect with what excites you? What problems do you want to solve? What organizations or leaders do you admire? Right now, you may not know what legacy you want to leave behind, but you sure do know what excites you and gets you fired up.
- What are your life priorities and goals? What kind of lifestyle do you want to create? How can you start building that life today? Is there a way to start chipping away at your 10-year plan and create moments that bring you closer to the life you envision or the person you want to be — starting now?
- What mediums or channels will you use to spread your message? What feels natural and authentic to you? Is your channel joining a company whose mission you believe in? Consulting for clients in a certain industry that share your values? Starting your own business? Is it writing or speaking to teach and inspire others? Or pursuing a hobby you’ve forgotten? Maybe you want to change your career altogether, or create a portfolio of multiple careers. I write more about how you can create a portfolio career here.
What if you’re already doing work that you love? That’s fantastic. You’re already on your way. We should always continue to ask ourselves: Is this my life’s work? Am I bringing my authentic self to my work? Do I feel fulfilled? What steps can I take to get closer?
And if you have no idea yet, know that the exact type of work you do doesn’t even matter… It matters more how you do it (your values and intentions), how you feel, and who you are at work.
WORK FROM A MINDSET OF ABUNDANCE
Every time you get pulled down by scarcity or fear, try to switch to a mindset of abundance. Here are some ways to apply this thinking to your work:
- Partner with others in your industry from a position of abundance. You may view them as competitors, but there usually is a way to expand the pie. For example, an author can list her book on another author’s website who is “competing” in the same space, helping to spread awareness about the topic and gaining more credibility through a mutually beneficial relationship. There’s more to be gained by providing value to your collective audiences.
- Don’t just sign clients that pay the big bucks if you don’t believe in their mission or team. Take on clients that align with the causes you care about and your interests. You empower every single person you work with, and their energy impacts you, so choose wisely. My friend Madison Hanna, founder of a communications agency called Curated Compass, does this well by choosing clients that align with her passions.
- Give, give, and give to your audience without expecting anything in return. Before you ask for anything, provide immense value for free. Put your customers and community first, and go above and beyond to serve them.
- Similarly, eliminate the ego and help others on your team without seeking recognition. Reduce the jealousy you feel for others’ success. These are distractions of the ego and fear. You’ll end up serving yourself the most by generously serving your team and delighting your clients.
- Don’t make money your north star. When you quiet the fear of financial insecurity, ask yourself what you truly crave. When money is no object, what becomes your north star? Keep asking yourself this whenever the doubts bubble up, and readjust your compass.
So now that I put it out there, I’m holding myself accountable.
I’m starting the process of taking off the armor that has protected me my whole life: the desires of the ego, the drive for success and achievement, and the basic human need for stability and security.
It’s a very raw and vulnerable feeling.
This is a small step in the messy, challenging, and thrilling journey of seeing what happens when my spiritual longings and modern career dance under the same roof.
Interested in joining me, or following along my journey? You can find more posts like this on my blog: http://www.covival.com/.