“Anything on earth you want to do is play. Anything on earth you have to do is work. Play will never kill you, work will. I never worked a day in my life.”
– Dr Leila Denmark (the USA’s oldest doctor)
I often hear people saying things like, “I’d do what I love, if only I knew what it was” and “I’d do what I love, if only I knew how to do it.” Back at the beginning of the year, I did a Facebook Live broadcast on my business page called “The 5 Paradoxical Clues To The Work You’re Here To Do”. People really loved it, so I thought I’d share the 5 paradoxical clues here in the JST over the next 5 weeks. So here’s the first clue:
Paradoxical Clue 1: You enjoy it – it’s fascinating to you
I was once being interviewed on the BBC, and I explained to the interviewer that everyone already knows (at least on some level) what they’d love to do. The interviewer challenged me, asking, “What about people who don’t know what they want to do?” I asked her for an example, and she said that she struggled with this herself. So I asked her a few “cheesy coaching questions”, for example…
– If you could wave a magic wand and have everything the way you want it to be, what would that look like?
– What would you want to do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
– What would you want to do if you knew it was OK to fail?
– What would you do if all work paid the same, and you could get whatever work you like?
– What would you want to do if you knew you were going to be happy, secure, successful and loved, whether it worked out or not?
– What would you want to do if you didn’t have to be unhappy about not doing it?
The BBC interviewer said, “I’d open a holistic therapy and wellbeing clinic.”
As you can imagine, I was a bit surprised, and I said, “Wow! Where did that come from?” She explained that she’d been being trained as a holistic therapist for years, and was completely fascinated with it, but she was afraid of ‘making the leap’ because it might not work out.
And this was when I realised something big. Saying, “I’d do what I love if I only knew what it was / knew how” is a lot more ‘socially acceptable’ than saying, “I’d do what I love if I wasn’t scared of failure and criticism.”
It’s not just easier to say to other people. It’s easier to say to yourself.
And this is where it gets paradoxical. The thing you turn out to *love* doing, may be something that you don’t know how to do yet, or even one that’s frightening to you at the moment.
Here’s an example: I LOVE public speaking. I enjoy it so much that I’d do it even if it wasn’t my profession. But here’s the thing:
I used to be terrified of public speaking. My legs would shake and my voice would tremble. The colour would drain from my face and my mouth would dry up.
When I first started realising the work I’m here to do, I had a sudden image of me speaking to hundreds of people, and it scared the hell out of me!
And that’s the paradox: While your greatest gift is going to be something you enjoy thoroughly… something that’s fascinating to you… something you’d do even if you weren’t getting paid for it…
You might start out being not very good at it, or even scared of doing it.
But that’s OK. The simple key is this: just take the next step. You don’t have to do th whole journey at once. One step at a time is just fine.
Sunday Times Bestselling Author, Speaker and Executive Coach
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