Finding your true calling

Interview with Valerie Young author of
Finding Your True Calling: The Handbook for People Who Still Don't Know What They Want to be When They Grow Up But Can't Wait to Find Out.

1. This is a quote from your website, www.changingcourse.com : Are you doing EXACTLY the kind of work that makes you want to leap out of bed each morning excited to begin a new day? Is that a fair snapshot of the philosophy of life and work in your book?

Yes. Far too many people drag themselves out of bed dreading another miserable commute to go a job that pays the bills but does not feed their soul. My philosophy is that there are ways to do work you love and earn a living - if you are willing to put in the time and effort to make that happen.

2. What if you're one of the people who slinks out of bed each day and tries not to remind yourself of that fact?

Then I would say you are destined to continue to remain stuck.

3. Is there such a thing as a self defeating job, which is actually holding you back?

Jobs that rob you of your dignity or where you report to an abusive manager chip away at your self-esteem. Also jobs that require an exorbitant amount of commuting or travel time also drain you from time you could be using to work toward that more fulfilling work/life.

4. Your page, Finding Your True Calling, seems to have anticipated some recent research on productivity, regarding job satisfaction. Duke University even says that longevity is related to job satisfaction. Why is that?

People often dismiss stress by saying, it's 'just stress.' But stress kills people. I seem to recall somewhere a statistic that said most heart attacks happen on Mondays. If you love your work - even if you are putting in a lot of hours which every self-employed person must do at least starting out - than it makes sense that you would have better mental and physical health leading to greater longevity.

5. Also on that page, you say that you gave up an office cubicle and a 90 mile commute nine years ago. How did you come to make that decision, and how much of that thinking is reflected in your book?

My mother passed away very unexpectedly of a heart attack at only 61. It was a major wake up call for me - one that reminded me that clich - as it sounds, life truly is short - but it is wide. From that experience I developed the Life First - Work Second Approach to Career Planning. In other words, most people end up with the life that goes with the job - a long commute, a cubicle, and so on. The Life First Work Second Approach asks you to think about what you want your life to look like first. Then come up with ways to generate income that will allow you to have as much of that life as possible. After my Mom died I realized I wanted to work for myself, work alone, and work at home. Today I love my life and my work.

6. The whole idea of work, or even a job, has taken on so many negative connotations over the years. Is that because people are so often not doing what they want to do?

There are some wonderful jobs that people love. However, far too many people focus on what they are good at and not what they love to do. I'm good at typing and mowing the lawn but it doesn't mean I want to make my living at either. People get tracked into a career because 'Everybody said I was good at [fill in the blank].' I tell people think effort not skill. If you put in the effort you can acquire the skills to do the work you want to do.

7. People's enthusiasm and energy levels usually get worn down by a drab, dreary, even hostile, work environment. Is that when they need to recognize that isn't the place or the job for them?

Everyone is going to have bad days at work - even me. But if you are in a hostile work environment that is a clue that you need to look for something different.

8. Do you have to reinvent yourself to find your true calling, or just admit it to yourself?

Admitting that there is more to life, that it really is possible to do satisfying work is the first step. For some people this means reinventing themselves and their lives, for others it may mean pursing their current work but somehow doing it on their own terms.

9. The idea of people enjoying their lives, let alone their work, may come as a shock to some. Isn't this a sort of employment heresy, or has management science grown up a bit, too?

If an employee is unhappy in their job it actually ends up costing the company because that person will ultimately leave and it is expensive to hire and retain a new employee. Happy employees do a better job. Happy employees who also have a life will stick around for a long time which is in the companies best interest.

10. The whole basis of motivational science is to find convincing reasons to do something. Is it fair to say that your perspective is dealing with the reasons people naturally have within themselves?

Motivation to make a change has to come from within. Having said that if you are being downsized out of your job then the 'universe' just gave you motivation to finally start thinking about what you would love to do and how you can make a contribution to the world. If you go outside and sit in nature in a quiet place you will hear a small voice inside telling you what to do. Sometimes being able to be a positive role model to your kids is the motivation to change course, sometimes it is a desire to make the world a better place by making a difference, sometimes it is to have control over your time and your life. Everyone's motivation for changing course is different but in the end the desire must come from you.