Like when you are in the Maserati dealership, if you have to ask you are in the wrong place!
Had the great fortune of hearing this question from numerous younger people. Am I in love? How do you know?
I recently talked to a young man who asked me these questions. He then blurted out that he spent the last five years with this woman and he was going to marry her because he doesn't think he has another five years in him to meet someone else. Yikes
And I hear this same sentiment pertaining to career choices.
Years ago, I was asked to address 500 PhDs at a career conference who no longer want to work in their fields of research.
I conducted a workshop called "Running from the Law" for 350 lawyers.
I think the analogies between love and life, dating and working are closely related. We seek companionship, trust, belonging, meaning, and mutuality in our lives. In everything. Not just for a soul mate or life partner but in our careers.We want our work to feed our insatiable desire for connection, emotional connection connection that matters and give us a deep sense of pride, security, confidence and meaning. We are lying to ourselves if we deny this.
Virtually none of us remember being in the sandbox as a toddler telling our friends and parents that we would be doing what we are doing now. Because life is a crazy journey of twists and turns, some say fate, others know its more about choices and chances. But I digress.
Our jobs and internships, are our forays into our work /love life. We are "courting careers", we are scouring the match.coms of jobs, we are asking friends to set us up, we are constantly comparing our unrealistic list of needs/wants and even demands to our "dates". Is this what I want? Is this where I am supposed to be? Is this all there is? Is this how I am supposed to feel?
We want to be in love and to be loved.
In the hundreds of conversations I have had, it is the lover not the object of love who is the most challenged. We don't know what we want and therefore our search is always one more of questioning than satisfying. We fall into things. We settle. We rationalize. Most of all we defer and wait. Not sure for what.
Last week I talked to a newish non-profit leader who is questioning his career "date". Are you passionate about your work?, I queried. "No but I am working hard.", she said. Wonderful answer avoidance! Read: Not in a serious relationship yet.
Dating is not serious if there is not the possibility of marriage.
Met an executive in business and I asked him to tell me about his work. He looks at his shoes and says, "Just run a PR firm." Whoa, pride alert! Then he added, "I am not able to do good things like you." Major guilt exposed! Why not? Why does he think he is stuck in this bad relationship? Why does he accept not being in love?
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu
We need strength and courage in our professional lives. We get it from our engagement intellectually and emotionally from what we do--paid and unpaid.
But John, do you know how hard it is to find what you are talking about? Yeah I do. So when did you give up on things that were hard or even impossible? When did you push the auto-pilot button to give the controls of your life to "whatever"?
Some wake up and make changes. They are no longer in love and they get a divorce from their jobs. Some get dumped. because they waited too long. Still others stay in toxic, abusive relationships.
Do we seek practical love? Or convenient love? Or do we pursue head over heels in love? Do we want love we rationalize or love we can brag about?
Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love. - Rumi
Time is not slowing down. Time is ticking. Like the maternal biological clock--When will you give birth to your dreams?
I am not saying to quit, divorce or bail, I am saying investing in the opportunity to make it work. A great and enduring relationship takes work. It doesn't just glide on the energy of puppy love.
Are you in love with what you are doing, who you are becoming? Are you in love with the potential, the chance to grow?
Yes? Then, you understand. Keep working at it. If No, then you need to take control of the helm and get your little boat pointed in the right direction. Your compass is your heart.
Only you have formed the rules and boundaries of the current world. Only you can change it up and make it what you want.
Use your network of mentors and advisors to help you evaluate your choices.
Last week I met a woman about her career. She said, " I am so overwhelmed. I am almost drowning. But it has been a long time since I felt this challenged, so connected to my work, forcing me to use my brain and everything I have. I am so grateful to be here!
It's a beautiful thing when people are in love.
You know if you are love. Only you do.
Thanks for reading. John