Once upon a time there was a young boy who seemed destined to become a doctor, like his father, and his father before him—the entire family expected it of this boy. There was basically no other possibility for this young life: a doctor he would have to be.
From an early age, his father thrust medical books into his lap, and all through elementary and high school his mind was being inundated by an enormous amount of medical data and information. When he got to college, he breezed through the courses of study with honors. And when he got to medical school, he excelled there, too. He worked very hard to achieve this goal, much to the pleasure of his father, whom he always tried to please.
Then, just as he started his first practice, his father died, and overnight this man's drive to be a doctor died as well. He could not understand it. He was left with nothing but a hole where his ambitions should be, and little or no energy to work at what he worked so hard to achieve. What happened? Why had it all come to a screeching halt?
He had developed his medical talents and was an excellent doctor. All of his patients loved him. Throughout his life he had looked to his father, and the rest of his family, as the measure of his success. But after the father's death, it all meant nothing. A lifetime of study—thousands of dollars and hours of work—down the drain.
The emotional investment in this work was significant; his entire being had been pointed toward this goal. The man had reached a crisis point of no return, and yet he couldn't go back to what was. It would have literally killed his spirit to do so.
If we were to look back into this man's private moments, we would have seen exactly what was sustaining him throughout all the years of pressure from his father. Behind his closed doors, and under the bed covers, he was looking at the medical books, but he was drawing and sketching what was in those books. Those precious moments brought him complete joy and peace; he absolutely loved to draw and sketch, but because of his father's constant hovering presence, he felt he had to keep that side of himself secret. Making a living as a doctor was the only allowable expectation. The son was left alone to fulfill dreams that werent his.
His private moments spent working with his art sustained him through the difficult time of having to be what he didn't want to be. The essence of who this man was was in the artwork he created in private.
How many of us hid who we are under a bushel, or in this doctor's case, in his bedroom under a blanket? One of the most difficult things to do in life is to face who we really are versus who we think we are, and look at what kinds of results have been produced. Our doctor had an expectation of being a doctor his whole life, until his father died, and then he found out that it wasn't what he wanted at all. It is hard to imagine investing an entire lifetime in an image or profession that we really don't want for ourselves. Yet many of us do this. After all, we spend a great deal of time investing in that part of us—at least we deserve to be who we're meant to be, and not someone else's of us.
If the time spent at a job is no longer giving us sustenance, or we have lost our passion for it, we need to shift directions and re-find the grains of passion within us. That might include a complete change in direction, but it also might include a repackaging of what has been done before. Passion and enthusiasm for what we do will sustain us in almost any kind of job situation, even if the job doesn't look like something we would have chosen for ourselves.
In my own case, I was looking at my own expectations of myself in my professional life. There have been many twists and turns in my career. I have been an astrological counselor for the past seventeen years. At one time I did very well with it, and was able to sustain myself financially. I had also spent the years between 1994 and 1998 writing my first book.
I had expected that astrology would be my only source of income for the rest of my life and that I would become well known because of the book I wrote. Those were huge expectations! After the first few years, however, the money started to decline. I still loved it, but the tide was turning. I was weary of having to endlessly promote myself. I was pretty much empty of desire and focus. I had no energy left. At that time, too, I had also been diagnosed as diabetic, so I had to focus on health issues.
After I got my physical health in reasonably good order, I started to reexamine my purpose and my true motivations. I was still doing astrology, but I had to acknowledge that astrology might not pay the bills. I became depressed and abdicated personal responsibility for making a good living to support myself. I started to rely on my uncle and his family to help me pay the bills. They resented that after a while, I can tell you, and when my family finally pulled their financial support, I had to get with the program. (I must thank, in particular, my uncle, whose "tough love" turned my life around.) Something had started to free up within me, and I began looking at other options.
Part of this rebuilding process involved looking at many of the gifts I had inherited and that I still valued. I realized that I came from a long line of very creative people, and I am here to continue that legacy. Both my parents had abundant creative abilities. They were both professional artists in the 1950s and 60s. I remember that early in my childhood my parents spent a great deal of time creating their masterpieces (I have over three hundred paintings of theirs). I couldn't help but follow in their footsteps in some way; my venue early in life was music, and still is to some extent, but I later found my own avenue of visual creativity.
I also looked back at a few other previous career possibilities. First, I looked at administrative work, which I had never fully enjoyed, but I had developed a keen critical eye, especially when proofreading documents. However, I had found the more I looked in this old direction, the less momentum it had. I was applying for clerical jobs, and nothing happened. Clearly, something had changed, because the previous types of employment weren't opening up.
Then, I went back to another time in my life. In the 1980s I had worked as a fashion/image consultant, which was a very popular profession at that time. I remembered I had been so passionate about it. That was a huge key—the passion. I found that I was very good at assessing the right colors and personal style for my clients. I worked with clients to creatively build their wardrobe; my clients were the "canvases" on which I worked.
I started to think about working in women's retail clothing again. There was no reason I couldn't do the same work I had done twenty years earlier, but from within the framework of working in a retail store. On a whim, I applied online to two major retailers: Nordstrom and Macy's.
Within one hour of submitting the application to Nordstrom, I was called for an interview, and a few days later, I was offered the job. On the same day, I was also called by Macy's to interview in their larger women's department. To make a long story short, I worked at Nordstrom for two days, and quit, but I felt as though Macy's was calling me. And it did—literally!
A Fashionista in Spandex!
Another major realization hit me at that time: my mother had told me that I'd never be good in sales. I had to confront a belief about myself that I assumed was true. After a few months on the job, I realized I was doing very well in sales. After all, if I could sell myself, I could sell clothing! (Twenty years as self-employed counted for something. Those skills I learned from my own businesses applied wonderfully on the new job.)
As my first year at Macy's ended, I had $400,000 in sales. I have submitted a proposal to Macy's to implement special training programs to do the type of work I've been doing with image for over twenty years. I want to teach other sales staff the techniques I've used during my image consulting years, and think that that kind of specialized service will really help spark new business for Macy's. I realize I want to get back into training and teaching, where my heart belongs.
I can tell you this: When the timing is right, and the situation is right, and the job is right, you can get a job—even if you're wearing spandex! The doors will naturally open and admit you. You just need to take the step through the door to the other side.
We have to assess what our version of success looks like, because it cannot be compared with anyone else's. Our process in life is our own, and events will play out in their own way, in their own time. The important thing is to pay attention to the direction in which your life seems to be going. The manifestation of one's dreams into reality depends on following a course that works for you. Drop what doesn't work, and adopt what does work.
What About You?
Once you figure out what you've got to work with, you'll be better able to identify something that suits you. If you're at a loss as to what your talents are, here are some more questions. Take a look at each of these fundamental abilities and see which you do best:
It is indeed possible to find any of these qualities in jobs out there. Identify one or more you really relate to, and go from there to find a job with those qualities. I was lucky to realize I could use the creative principle and teaching and mentoring in my job I do now. And it is infinitely satisfying.
And, what about that doctor from my first story? After the dust settled, he parlayed his artwork into a sideline career. His father's death was the catalyst that moved him into his real profession He didn't give up medicine, but he no longer hides his creative light under a blanket. He allows his creative side to come front and center in his life, so that he can be a better doctor. In fact, one feeds the other: he gets his needs met through the creative work, and he is more able and available to work with those who are sick and in need of healing. And his pictures now hang in his medical office.
We can reinvent the wheel, or repackage our existing skill-sets into new ones. In fact, it is periodically necessary to keep life fresh and moving forward. If you are going through a professional reassessment right now, shelve all those unfulfilled expectations and then find out what your passions are. If you do that, you can start to infuse your work with what your true nature is, and perhaps find a place where your talents can be utilized. Your job/career, no matter what it is, will be satisfying to you. This can make an enormous difference in the psyche and the spirit.
Whatever you do, do it with joy, purpose, and passion.
Note From the Author
I think, too, I wanted to see in what areas of my life I could experience joy and passion. Working with color and clothing was a great deal of fun. I even remember the first time I realized I wanted to become an image consultant and finding someone who would mentor me. It was one of the most joyful times in my life, as well as the most passionate. That joy and passion are what I was looking for again.
Excerpted from Llewellyn's 2009 Sun Sign Book. Click here for current-year calendars and almanacs.