In his book “A Life at Work”, Thomas Moore uses the metaphor of alchemy as a way of describing our search for our life’s work. He talks about the value inherent in the process of finding and deepening our sense of what we are here to do. As the alchemists strove to transform base metal into gold, our search for a life’s work transforms our personal history and experiences into something unique and meaningful.
Sometimes it seems as though what is happening in our working lives is “base metal”: day-to-day frustrations, lack of progress, lack of focus. And yet if we are willing to trust that things will work out, and able to find value in the stuff of our lives, then we will find glimmers of gold emerging.
And finding a way to enjoy the process will in itself bring a sense of meaning. In every career, there will be successes and setbacks along the way. But there is almost never an end-point at which we can say “yes I’ve made it!”; life is always unfolding.
We are now into a General Election campaign in the UK. Standing for parliament is a situation where there seems to be a very clear end point and winner. But the process of standing for election can be valuable in itself. Whether or not you win, you have the opportunity to stand up for something and to state your case. If you win, a new learning path will begin as soon as the celebration is over, and if you lose you will undoubtedly learn from the experience. I stood some years ago for a local council election and although not a winner, I learned a huge amount about myself, including the realisation that this wasn’t the right path for me at that point in my life.
Whatever our career ambitions, there are aspects that are beyond our control. If we only focus on end results, we lose what is more important: the value of the journey through this, our one life.
If your career feels wrong for you, then change it, but don’t put your life on hold while you do it. The more you can focus on what you do enjoy right now, in your current life and work, the more positive energy that will release to help you make changes. And when you are willing to make changes on the inside, that’s when transformation can happen on the outside too.
What valuable lessons have your learned along your career path? Please share in the comments below.
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