How To Discover Your Right Livelihood
“I have not always chosen the safest path. I’ve made my mistakes, plenty of them. I sometimes jump too soon and fail to appreciate the consequences. But I’ve learned something important along the way: I’ve learned to heed the call of my heart. I’ve learned that the safest path is not always the best path and I’ve learned that the voice of fear is not always to be trusted.” ― Steve Goodier
To find your right livelihood, and perhaps the expression of your soul purpose, you need to access the knowledge of your subconscious mind. (Read about the unconscious or subconscious mind here.)
There are many ways to do this, and here are just a few of them.
1 Look At What Do You Do in Your Spare Time: What Are Your Hobbies?
Years ago, I worked with Alan, an accountant who was thoroughly bored with his corporate job. When he came to me for a coaching session based on shadow work methodology, I asked him to tell me what made him excited. He shuffled his feet and eventually replied, “Nothing, really.”
And then I asked him what he did in his spare time. For the next 30 minutes he regaled me with stories of making wine at home, in his cellar, with the wine press he’d built by hand.
Sensing I might be on to something, I asked him: “Alan, have you ever considered a career in the wine industry?”
There was a long silence, eventually broken by a string of expletives expressing, I imagine, his astonishment that this had never occurred to him.
Then, tentatively, as if he were nursing this new idea like a new born infant, he asked me, “How do you think I might do that?”
I happened to know that the local college offered a part-time course in Wine Education, under the auspices of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, a body dedicated to furthering people’s careers in the hospitality industry.
Next thing, Alan phoned me up, very excited, to tell me that he’d signed up for the course. And a couple of years later he passed all the exams with flying colours and moved seamlessly into a job as a wine buyer for a national supermarket chain.
For several years he had a great time touring and sampling wines all over the world. Sensing it was time to move on again, he studied for a degree in winemaking and then moved to Australia, where he immediately landed a job as a winemaker with one of the large wine companies.
A few years later he’d accumulated enough money and contacts to fund the purchase of his own vineyard. He recently sent me an email in which he told me how happy he was having found “his passion”.
“Everything about this job suits me,” he wrote. “The connection with the land. The investment of time and care in Mother Earth which you need to produce a quality product. That deep sense of being so linked to Nature. The movement through the seasons. The science of fermentation. The art and craft of producing high quality wine which enhances so many people’s lives. And beyond all of that, I totally love how wine brings people together in such a fun way.”
As Alan’s story shows, what you do in your spare time can be a crystal clear indication of where your true passion and interests lie.
Video – uncovering your true passion
When you look at what you do in your spare time, does it have an underlying purpose which excites you and drives you on to achieve more in this area? Is there some way in which it benefits the world or the people in it?
And if that’s true, then how might you begin turning your hobby into an occupation?
Now – a word of caution. Often people have a sense of their passion, but are inhibited about following that path. they fear failure. They think they are not good enough. They are scared of being seen, of “putting their heads above the parapet”. In other words, their fears hold them back. Bit here’s the rub – those fears can be unconscious. You may require some therapy to uncover them; you may require more therapy to overcome them. And yet, without such therapy, how are you to get what you want – your passion? I will say more about this in a moment.
2 Take Note of What Interests You and Excites You
When you read books, what excites you? Stories of adventure, exploration, discovery? Science, art or literature? Which programmes are unmissable for you on television, and why is that?
What in the world gives you happiness, pleasure and satisfaction?
Video – why are people so unhappy?
(Unhappiness is a massive block to seeking fulfillment and passion in your work because it blocks motivation.)
One of my clients, Susannah, who was working as a mechanical engineer in the railway industry, told me that she loved watching TV documentaries on the history and geology of the British landscape.
In fact, she told me, she’d enjoyed a sense of connection with nature since she was a little girl, when she used to play endlessly in the fields, mountains and streams of the English Lake District.
And her face lit up when she talked about introducing other people to the pleasures she knew so well. In fact, her passionate desire to share this landscape and her knowledge of it was very clear. She talked a lot about reconnecting people to Nature.
But like so many people in this situation, she hadn’t chosen to explore her excitement and joy any further. Her fear, her unconscious fear, stopped her. And note that was fear she barely knew existed in her mind. It was, as the psychologists say, “in shadow“.
What she needed was a catalyst to show her how she could turn her passion for the land into something bigger: a pastime, a job, an occupation, a life purpose even.
Often people know what excites them but they fail to make the connection between their excitement and the possibilities which lie hidden within it. For Susannah, all that was needed to bridge this gap was to learn just enough about the art of documentary filmmaking.
Now, you may say, “That’s such a big thing.”
But a little learning about how to make documentaries allowed Susannah to submit some simple videos to a number of TV companies all over the world. Soon, her videos came to the attention of a producer on an American TV channel.
And then Susannah was invited to submit a script and a test shoot for a series of programmes on the British landscape – with her in front of the camera.
Finally, with her script accepted, she was invited to present the programs on camera for a commissioned TV series.
Last I heard of her, Susannah was living her dream.
She was exploring and adventuring in the landscape she loved, introducing millions of other people to the possibilities of pleasure in this glorious countryside.
More than anything else, she was living her life purpose: bringing people to an understanding of the delicate ecosystems on which we all depend.
And note that she did this by working on her unconscious fears: which meant, for her, seeing a psychotherapist qualified in shadow work, who could uncover and eliminate her deepest fears and self-doubts.
Sure, you may not want to make TV programmes, but you can still think about what excites you.
And, as a corollary, you can think about what scares you. And when you find out what scares you, you can do some personal work on it. See, for example the description of what is possible on this website about shadow work. The author says: “If you are wrestling negative emotions, beliefs, or habits, it’s not because you are broken. With enough commitment and curiosity, you can address these things and move beyond them….”
For example, what do you post about on Facebook, Pinterest or any other social media site? What unique knowledge and talents could you share with other people?
Sarah Charles graduated in 2007, but rapidly discovered that undertaking graphic design work contracted by large corporations didn’t prove as fulfilling or creative as she’d hoped. So in her spare time, she created her own prints inspired by nature – owls, armadillos, wolves, trees, flowers, and so on.
Because she was open to the possibility of new ways of expressing her art, Sarah set up a store on Etsy, a newly developed online platform where craftspeople could sell their products. Etsy brings together skilled artists and buyers who appreciate the time, creativity and effort which the merchant-artists put into their products.
And sure enough, customers began to find her. Better still, her customers began asking her to make T-shirts, pillows and throws screenprinted with her designs.
This allowed Sarah to make a few extra thousand dollars a year for several years doing what she loved to do.
And then, in 2012, Etsy featured her on its homepage for five days. This led to thousands of new orders and allowed Sarah to turn her hobby into a full-time career.
Literally overnight, she stopped working for companies and started to focus entirely on her own creations, selling them through her online store. Her business is now thriving, and paying her more money than she’d earned in any other job.
This means Sarah can focus on the artistic and creative side of the business. As she says, “I’m in the sweet spot where I’m at my capacity but I’m making great margins and paying myself well.”