I’ll never forget the day I landed my dream job.
It was October 2011 when I got the news that Human Resources was looking for a new team member to start an employee onboarding program for the large oil & gas company I was working for at the time. To my shock and disbelief, they wanted me to be one of their two team members to design & develop the new program.
To say I was ecstatic is an understatement.
For weeks I walked around as if I had won the lottery. Everything about the position was exactly what I wanted and desired in a career. After five long years of trying to “make it”, I felt like I had finally arrived.
However, my excitement and enthusiasm for my dream career were short lived.
Soon after accepting the position I found myself trying to navigate an all-too-familiar territory—despair and utter disappointment for the job that I believed was my answered prayer.
Bewildered, I wondered “how could this be?”
I was finally working in my dream corporate career, yet I was miserable, depressed and deeply dissatisfied.
What I eventually learned about my experience is that my method for achieving happiness was flawed:
I followed a title, instead of my heart. I chased money, instead of my dream. I strived for status, instead of a purpose. I tried to fit in, instead of being true to who I was.
It was hard to admit to myself that I had failed. After all, I should have been happy, right? According to most people, I had it all: five weeks vacation, a six-figure salary and a desk with a view.
What more could a girl want?
I had everything that society told me I needed to be happy in my career, yet, I couldn't shake the hollowness I was feeling or my thinking that “there's gotta be more to life than this”.
The truth is, I didn't want to let anyone down. I felt ungrateful for not loving my new job so I tried to fake my happiness (especially in the presence of the people who helped me get to where I was) because I thought I owed it to them.
They took a chance on me and vouched for my performance, even putting in a good word on my behalf. I felt that it would be selfish to express my unhappiness. So I kept quiet and tried not to complain.
Eventually, I realized that the emptiness I was feeling was a symptom. It was an indication that I had been denying my purpose and the person I was born to be for too long—and it just wasn’t working anymore.
The stress and inner conflict I felt consumed me. The debilitating anxiety I had conquered several years prior gradually returned. The imbalance was taking its toll on my health (physically & emotionally) which was a sign telling me that I needed to make a change.
It’s clear to me now that every struggle, challenge and setback I faced yielded deep spiritual significance—a gift inviting me to transform.
In other words, I needed to feel the pain, anguish and discomfort of working in a job I loathed in order to do something about it and to move forward in a new direction.
But like most people, I was confused, frustrated and I had no idea what my calling was. The only thing I knew for sure was that I couldn’t wait for an answer any longer—I needed to reclaim control of my destiny and chart my own course before one would be chosen for me.
So that’s what I did.
I set forth on a journey to move mindfully and intentionally towards the direction I wanted to go; each step bringing me closer to figuring out what I loved and doing something that mattered.
Since I was unclear about what I should do next, I made a gradual shift by taking a few small steps to give me clarity and something positive to focus my energy and attention while I figured things out. It made my job tolerable when I knew that it was temporary and I was working towards something better.
If you’re uncertain and you don’t know what you want or where to start, I recommend starting with the four things I did that lead me to my calling:
Ask for clarity
The best place to start when you don’t know what you want is to ask for clarity. In my case, that meant waking up each morning with a very clear intention: “what do I want?”
You can write this question on a post-it note and stick it to your bathroom mirror, journal about it, meditate on it, or in my case, throw your question out into the Universe and then carefully listen for an answer to present itself.
Have faith that new ideas, inspiration and opportunities will emerge and don’t pass it off as simply chance when they do.
Trust your intuition
Now that you’ve asked for clarity it’s important to listen to the messages and wisdom you receive.
For example: are you constantly bumping into the same person, hearing the same song, having the same dream, thinking the same thought or feeling the same intuitive guidance over and over then shaking it off as pure coincidence?
Pay close attention to the signs you receive to help you identify your calling or to help you decide which path you should take.
We’re always being guided and supported but it’s up to us to see it and to accept the help.
Follow your curiosity
Do you want to know the biggest mistake I made throughout most of my twenties?
I sat around “thinking” about what my purpose was instead of going out and trying new things.
Finding your purpose is an experiential process—not an intellectual one.
When you experience things in life you discover what you're naturally good at—things that bring you joy, meaning & purpose.
You uncover latent talents and interests that you didn’t know you had—and at the very least—you’ll figure out what you don’t want which holds tremendous value as well.
Anytime you think to yourself….”I’d like to try”...or…”I’d like to do....”...don’t hesitate. Just do it!
Elizabeth Gilbert explains in her talk “Flight of the Hummingbird—The Curiosity Driven Life” how chasing your passion isn’t the answer but following your curiosity can lead you towards living a deeply fulfilling life.
Take daily action
Dramatic change doesn’t occur my making drastic changes.
It’s the small consistent steps you take each day towards your goals that get results. Do one small thing every day that brings you closer to what you want and you’ll be amazed by how much your life can change in six months to a year.
As you give birth to new ideas, nurture those thoughts to help them grow and to get you moving forward in a different direction.
About a year into taking steady action, something miraculous happened.
My husband received a very enticing job offer in the United States. It was the opportunity we had both been waiting for—a chance for him to advance his career and for me to leave one that no longer aligned with my values or priorities in life.
Six weeks later we packed our belongings including our two dogs and headed south to Houston from Calgary. It was the reality we’d been dreaming about for a long time.
Since then, I’ve become a certified life coach, a professional freelancer and created a blog to help creative and spiritual entrepreneurs, coaches, healers or anyone who feels the call to be creative use their gifts and talent to make a difference in the world.
I feel deeply fulfilled when I can help others overcome the same struggles that prevented me from reaching my own potential—something I wouldn’t have known had I remained idle in a job I didn’t love or didn't deliberately try to change.
So you see, it was the mindful, intentional choice to do one small thing each day that brought clarity and awakened my true calling. Even if the only thing I did that day was focus my thoughts, feelings and energy on the results I wanted (not what I didn’t want)—it was a start in the right direction.
The most important thing to remember is that your struggles are a gift—an opportunity to transform an unfulfilling situation into something positive and meaningful. Don’t let your dissatisfaction paralyze you, let it propel you towards a life and career you never dreamt possible.