It feels like there’s this big push in our era to find your One True Purpose and live and breathe it every single day.
I’ll be the first to admit, I got caught in that trap.
And for me, it’s often got in the way more than it’s helped.
While I do think it’s important to find work that is meaningful, aligned and enjoyable, sometimes we can get too caught up in making it epic that we end up getting in the way of… doing the actual work.
The truth I’ve found is this: we live in a capitalist world. No earth-shattering insight there. But what that means is even if you’re doing work that lights you up, by the very nature of our system you must dumb down and cut off parts of yourself in order to exist and thrive in this system.
That might not be the popular, rah-rah message we’re all used to getting in the motivational self-development culture, but it is the truth.
It’s not practical to think that you can get paid for all the parts of you, for all of your interests, and that you can always, 100% of the time get paid for being on the leading edge of your passion.
100% alignment with your purpose is a myth. Being on fire and passionate all the time is a fantasy. If you get too caught up in it, it can get in the way of doing work that can actually help people.
There is a place for doing epic things. For sure. There is a place for being high, pushing your edges, daringly following what your heart is guiding you to. But there is also the reality of the world we live in: to work on your own terms you must to some degree define or create a niche for yourself. Sometimes that means you will be doing things that you don’t necessarily want to do, but are necessary evils based on the system we’re in.
Of course we can work to create new systems, new cultures, new ways of life where we are more autonomous and don’t have to rely on the structure of capitalism. But in the meantime, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache and make your escape faster if you add a healthy dose of groundedness to your work-life strategy.
All of that is really heady, so let’s bring it down to earth and make it a bit more concrete.
Our world = always on, all the time
One of the downsides of the world we live in is that we’re expected to be continual producers. Our world favors and rewards those that show up consistently, even when they don’t feel like it, or it’s not most aligned with their natural rhythms. Our world doesn’t have a lot of room for living in harmony with the seasons. If it did we could feel free to produce at some times, and be more introspective and withdrawn at others.
Now, you can work to save money, create passive income, or live a more minimalist lifestyle where you don’t have to be “on” all the time. But what are you going to do in the meantime? To be successful enough to extract yourself from the “always on” game, you need to produce and be consistent, even during those times when that doesn’t feel authentic or natural. You can either fight against this and complain about it, or accept it and move on.
At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves: what is most practical and effective given the reality I’m currently in? What mindset will get me the results I want?
If making everything epic and world-changing is getting you the results you want, keep going. Keep doing that.
If it’s getting in the way, maybe you need to ask yourself, what is a more useful, practical approach to my work?
Often that is just showing up, facing your fears, your resistance and helping people, however you can.
You work doesn’t have to be world-changing and epic to make a difference. And especially not if it’s getting in the way of you actually showing up consistently.
At the end of the day, lack of consistency in our world is a huge vulnerability to creating the life you really want.
You don’t need to be epic or doing earth-shattering work to do that. Doubly so if that pressure is paralyzing you from showing up and putting one foot in front of the other.
Sometimes we need to dial down the spiritual and emotional significance of our work in order to make space for getting our hands dirty and making real, lasting progress.
What matters most is consistently showing up
Personally I’ve been feeling a lot of freedom lately in allowing my work to be more like a job, and less like a world-changing mission.
Maybe that will change next week, or next month. But for now I know that what I need to default to is showing up and helping people, owning the real value I can bring, and doing the work no matter what. I need to get out of my own way by making everything epic all the time.
Even nature can’t sustain hurricanes, tornadoes and volcanoes of energy all the time.
Steady and slow may not be the sexiest thing. Focusing on the foundations and the fundamentals may not light you up the way setting audacious goals and taking massive action does, but at the end of the day, what matters is what’s useful and sustainable.
What are you doing today to make real, lasting progress? Do you need to throttle up your why and mission, or is it time to make your priority showing up and doing the work every day, no matter what?
You don’t have to change the world. You just need to show up and help people.