Life's Work or Life Sentence?

Bob Goldman
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Posted: Nov 01, 2012 12:01 AM

Be honest now -- how would you feel if someone told you that the job you have now is the only job you'll ever have for the rest of your working life? Not because you won't find another employer dim enough to hire you, but because you realize that what you do isn't your work; it's your "life's work."

If you're like most people doing most jobs, your work is more life sentence than life's work. But Amber Rae isn't like most people. She believes that your job can also be your destiny. As she writes in "Fast Company," "this month marks the nine-month anniversary of the most natural and obvious, most joyful and energizing decision of my life: to commit 100 percent to my life's work. I've spent every day falling more madly in love with how I live my life and spend my time, the contributions I'm making to society, and the discomfort and growth that I feel every day."

Now, you have to admire that kind of positive attitude, though let me suggest it is best to admire it from a distance. Too much contact with someone this happy will only make you even more miserable. Unless, of course, you take Amber's advice and consider the "8 Signs You've Found Your Life's Work."

I'm too depressed to deal with all eight, but here are a few to get you started:

Sign #1, "It doesn't feel like work." As Ms. Rae puts it, "you frequently stop, and think to yourself, 'wait, am I seriously working right now?'" I suspect that you've never had this feeling, but rest assured that it has occurred to your boss, as she buzzed by your cubicle and wondered aloud, "Is he seriously working right now?"

"You are willing to suffer" is Sign #3, and if this is the only metric you use, you have found your life's work, no doubt about it.

Sign #4 is "you experience frequent flow." "Flow" refers to a state of mind in which you are so locked into your task that you don't notice that time is passing. (Rock climbers defying death on dangerous cliffs are thought to experience flow as they must concentrate totally to stay alive. Not that trying to hold on to rock crevices is as difficult as trying to hold on to a job.)

Amber Rae describes the feeling this way -- "At 1:13 p.m. you realize five hours have gone by since you looked at the clock last." This is a feeling I know you've experienced, only you experience it at 5:13 p.m. and the five hours have flown by since you stepped up to the bar at the Kit Kat Klub.

"You make room for living" is Sign #5. Rae suggests, "though you feel captivated and enthralled by your work, you make room for healthy routines like fitness, connection, spontaneity and play." The "captive" part probably resonates with you, but a more relevant set of healthy routines for which you always find time would include complaining, gossiping, grumbling, and playing dead.

"The people who matter notice" is Sign #7. In Amber Rae's world, these people say things like, "You look vibrant!" and "I've never seen you so healthy and happy!" Well, let me be the first to say that you definitely do look vibrant, but if you hear that from your manager, slap a harassment suit on them. Rae also points out that "people who care for you deeply may also be the first to question and worry in the early stages" of your efforts to find your life's work. So, if your spouse questions your decision to quit your job to lie on the couch, watching reruns of Law & Order: SVU, simply explain that you're trying to find your inner vibrancy.

The 8th and final sign that you've found your life's work is "You fall asleep exhausted, fulfilled, and ready for tomorrow." If this sign is true, then you've definitely found your life's work. Of course, you fall asleep exhausted, fulfilled and ready for tomorrow about an hour after you arrive at work, and you don't wake up until about an hour before it's time to go home, but that's just a detail. As you crawl into the coat closet for a nice fulfilling nap, remember the words of Amber Rae -- "You know you're on the right path, you gave your day your all, and you can't wait to do it all over again tomorrow."

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com. To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

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