Here’s an article I wrote about finding your meaningful work more than ten years ago. Still true…
Peter was a 40-year-old computer programmer who hated his job and had a passion for race-car driving. He spent so much time at the race track that his marriage was in trouble. His doctor prescribed anti-depressants and sent him to me for career counseling. Peter’s story was unforgettable.
One night when Peter was 13, his 16-year-old sister woke him up. “Mom and dad have gone out. Get in the back seat of the car and shut up,” she whispered. “We’re going for a ride.”
Peter followed her into the family car and fell asleep in the back seat. He woke up hours later in the darkness, in a ditch, unable to find his sister. She was pinned under the car and died instantly. That moment changed his life forever. His parents divorced, his father became an alcoholic, and “no one ever spoke about the accident. In fact, no one ever spoke at all,” he remembered. Peter became an outcast in high school and learned to bottle up his feelings. “Have a stiff upper lip and carry on,” was his father’s only advice.
As my client, he explored this memory and realized that each time he raced a car at 80 miles an hour around a race track he was healing a childhood wound. He was reliving and re-programming the event that had destroyed his childhood. He was taking control of his greatest pain – the loss of his sister and family. He also recognized that teaching someone else how to navigate a speeding car was a profoundly healing experience for him.
By facing his pain, Peter gave himself permission to pursue a career as a race car driving instructor and a race car service and repair shop owner. By honestly sharing his insights with his wife and daughter, he rallied their support for his new direction. He found renewed intimacy in his marriage, and gave himself permission to pursue work that he loved.
This brings me to the most powerful truth I know about meaningful work: Your pain is your greatest ally for finding work you love. Consider the possibility that you chose (consciously or unconsciously) every job you’ve had in your lifetime because it was healing you.
Hundreds of my clients have proven this to be true. From observing their experiences and studying the biographies of successful people, I am 100% SURE that our pain guides us to our true work; and that our true work heals our greatest pain.
How? Our work heals us by letting us offer to the world exactly what we need to heal ourselves. By facing our pain, we turn it into energy. It becomes our ally and moves us forward. Ask yourself what pain needs healing now? Let that answer guide you to work you love.
Here’s the secret: The more pain you feel, the more energy you have to launch your new career. See the pain as fuel – not as something that stops you from moving forward.
“There is no coming to consciousness without pain.” Carl Jung
In my 20s, I enjoyed a career as a mountaineering instructor for Colorado Outward Bound School. I loved empowering people and inspiring them to overcome their fears. Throughout my own childhood (as a woman growing up in the south in the 50s), I felt afraid and unempowered. This work of empowering others felt very meaningful to me; it was healing my childhood wounds. And I was having great fun!
I was married to a fellow mountaineer whom I adored, and our happy life was filled with climbing adventures and mountaineering trips.
My husband had stomach problems but was told by a couple doctors that it was nothing more than a nervous stomach or the beginnings of an ulcer. By the time we got a proper diagnosis of colon cancer, the doctors gave Paul two weeks to live. (This was in the late 70s before colonoscopies were used routinely.)
Paul died one year later. From that moment on, I couldn’t climb or teach mountaineering anymore. My life changed, and my work changed. I went back to school to study journalism and spent the next 15 years working as a newspaper reporter (health writer), magazine editor (writing about natural health), and a VP of Content for natural health websites. I was passionate about writing stories that helped people prevent disease and live healthy lives. I was healing my own pain with each story.
As my awareness evolved through spiritual work, I became passionate about helping everyone see their greatness, their indestructible soul, and the mission they came to accomplish. I allowed my intuition to flow through untethered and used it to help others. I learned to focus on the client’s luminous spirit, the great potential they came to fulfill in this lifetime, and the beauty of their pain story – so perfectly designed to help them evolve. This is the work I do today.
When you’re unhappy in your career, it’s time to face your greatest ally – your pain. The pain you’re feeling deep inside of you is like a beacon calling for your attention. It’s telling you what you need to know so your life can move forward.
Your pain needs to be recognized, listened to, and turned into fuel to move your life forward. How do you turn your pain into fuel? First by recognizing what your greatest pain is, and then by recognizing how to heal that pain through your work. Your career then becomes a powerful platform for healing you and healing others. Remember, the more pain you have, the more fuel you have. Consider your pain to be your greatest blessing and move forward.