When I say “Dream Job” or “Right Livelihood” what do you say?
“Right Livelihood is doing what you love. But not just that; it’s doing what you’re good at. Don’t matter how much you love something if you can’t develop your connection to it. But not just doing what you’re good at; it’s doing what’s of service to others. But not just that; it’s doing what can pay your bills.” ~ Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal
Must be nice. Yeah right. Some of us have to work for a living.
When I read those words Right Livelihood, there is a part of me that longs for it and another part that rolls her eyes. I notice my mind very quickly making the leap to some unexamined dream job/life and back again as I recite all the reasons why I do what I do and why I must not rock the boat: money, lifestyle, dependence, laziness and beneath it all? Fear. In seconds I am bounced from infatuation to inaction. Resigned, a bit stuck and settling for work that’s good enough, counting my blessings and carrying on.
I experience the fantasy of things being better or more satisfying by being different than they are. And this, as the Buddha teaches, is the very seed of suffering. https://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/02/right-livelihood-a-buddhist-perspective-sarah-powers/
Some of us can be very “All or Nothing”. For me this limited, neurotic response has resulted in two ways of being: thoughts of blowing my life up completely or dwelling in a melancholic malaise for the work I am not doing. Lately I’ve gotten curious, maybe a little older and wiser and I find myself wondering— Is there a middle way?
Before we throw the baby out with the bathwater or simply numb ourselves into acceptance, I have a question for each of us: Have we done everything we can do to bring our whole and best selves to our current work?
What if Right Livelihood isn’t just what we do, but what else we do? What if it’s the how and the why and the who for?
Is right livelihood only about quitting our jobs in search of greener pastures? Or chasing a fantasy that is only for the privileged? https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/08/is-right-livelihood-a-privilege-thoughts-from-someone-who-quit-her-job-to-pursue-her-dreams
Or can we hold the possibility of deepening into things just as they are, and bringing more of our best selves, talents, interests and right action into the workplace.
What qualities do we need to cultivate right livelihood into our work right now?
For me it begins with awareness and strengthening my capacity to see and be exactly where I am. Ways to do that may vary, but sitting meditation, an active Yoga practice, writing and study are some of the ways I bring myself into the present. That might sound lovely, but if I am honest, sometimes it’s crunchy to admit where I am at.
Once I sit with reality and chew on it for a while, it can help to bounce my story off someone and get it mirrored back. This will require courage but in my experience, more awareness brings more awareness. Whether it’s a trusted friend or colleague, a journal, a therapist or a coach, speaking the truth about our current work lives and being seen in that is a crucial next step. If this feels scary, you are not alone. Putting down the armor of denial takes grit,and vulnerability. https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/02/power-vulnerability-brene-browns-ted-talk-may-be-the-breakthrough-youve-been-looking-for/
Seeing our situation, sharing it and reflecting on it are important steps, but I wonder—what’s the difference between dwelling in the mire and transformation?
I assert it’s genuine curiosity and the pluck required to ask important questions.
What do you care about, moved by?
What are you great at that the world needs?
What are you doing now?
What’s working well? What isn’t?
And how can you use these things to serve others in your job?
Awareness is a starting point, and if we are paying attention, can direct us into right action. With eyes open, and trusted reflection, we can take a warrior seat that holds both strength and vulnerability. From here we can open our hearts and minds to the endless possibilities. Maybe it’s not what we do but what else can we do?
Here are some thoughts based on my own work life and experience. I’m curious. What do you do and what ways can you bring more of who you are and what moves you into the work you are already doing?
- Cultivate Community.
Start a walking/running/hiking/cycling or bowling club. Bring a challenge that encourages productivity and has a win. Suggest monthly or quarterly team building activities like a breakout room or some kind of game. Anything that brings your people together working towards something is a first step. Share something you love to do, or get curious about your colleagues.
- Level Up.
Suggest a company read — like Brene Brown’s latest “Dare to Lead” or some other kickass inspirational book. Take a class or workshop and present something you have learned to your people. Seek out a mentor or teacher, develop a relationship with them and learn all you can. Ask your peers—what do they know that you might learn from?
- Love your Mother Earth.
Champion a recycling program, or compost. Institute Vegan Lunch Tuesdays or Thursdays or every day. Start a campaign to get rid of plastic utensils or disposable cups in your workplace. Organize a roadside, highway or beach clean-up. Ask yourself and your office-mates or your family—are we helping clean things up or making more of a mess?
- Live to serve.
Pick one day a week to collect food donations and get a crew together to deliver it on your lunch break. Pick your cause and organize time off work to volunteer. Look around, how can you take what you are doing and put it to good use for someone else? Feeling strong? Suggest to your boss that you get paid for it.
- Above all, be brave.
Lean into your awareness, vulnerability and curiosity and go for it. Pursue your passions, interests and skills and share them to inspire and help the world be better, even just a little bit, and watch your day job turn into your day dream.