It’s Deceptively Simple, Just Do What You Love

A little over 7 months ago I left a job working for the state as a Behavioral Health Specialist.  From the outside it looks like a pretty great job.  And truth be told, in the beginning, I really loved it.  I got to do therapy with kids who loved being in my office, I worked with teachers and school staff who appreciated the work that I did.  I got tons of vacation and sick days.  I worked with a group of people that really cracked me up when we were able to get together.  There were the usual downsides that come with a state job including the massive amounts of redundant paperwork, watching the clock because god forbid you leave 10 minutes early even if you have absolutely no work to complete, and dealing with the people who have hit cruise mode (do very little work so other people end up doing it for them and never seem to get in trouble).

The downsides of the job were things I easily dealt with.  They weren’t really that bad.  Why then, were there some days that I wanted to tear my hair out with frustration?  Or silently slip out of the job and not tell anyone?  Why did I spend so much free time searching for other jobs?  It is hard to explain to someone why a job that has such good benefits and good enough pay why you hate it so much.

The truth is, I have felt that before.  In pretty much every other job I’ve had.  I start a new job thinking that I have “moved up,” after taking a job with better pay or something more related to doing therapy.  I would always start the job with a feeling of excitement, thinking of all the good I was going to be doing and how great this new job was going to be.  And then, like clockwork, about a year into it, the job wouldn’t just be boring or not great, it would be almost painful.  I would have dreams about it.  About what I should or shouldn’t have done today.  About what I need to do tomorrow.  About how I can improve my productivity or my practice.  I wouldn’t sleep well, I wouldn’t eat well, and it sucked all of my energy so I didn’t even feel like doing activities outside of work.  So even if I had the extra time, all I wanted to do was sleep or watch tv when I had time off.

In my last job, the one I spoke about above, the feeling got really bad.  I really started to hate being there.  I started to go in late and leave early.  I stopped doing the quality work that I was capable of.  I always took care of the kids, families and teachers that I worked with, but I knew that I could do better and that hurt, too.  I hate presenting mediocre work.  Luckily, there was a big difference in this last job that ended up being a huge blessing.

There was a convergence of circumstances that cultivated my ability to figure out what was wrong.  First, I really hated my job.  A lot.  This would seem like a bad thing, but truthfully it kept me from getting comfortable in a job that isn’t that bad like a lot of people do.  I hated it enough that I was determined to leave.  Next, I did my work really fast, so during the day I had a lot of free time.  And last, I had a computer with access to the google.  All of this together gave me impetus to do some deep soul searching and figure out what the hell I wanted to do with my life.  I got to read a lot written by others in similar circumstances.  And I found out some crucial information about why I was so frustrated in a pretty okay job.

It’s right there in Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” it’s there in Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” and gosh darn it, Oprah seemed to be spot on in most of her interviews with her guests over the years.  I wasn’t meeting my true potential.  I wasn’t doing what I loved.  I wasn’t being creative.  I didn’t feel like I was providing value.  And because my day to day job was so misaligned with what I really wanted to be doing, I spent all of my time worrying about the future and being sad or pissed off about the past that I couldn’t focus on the present moment.

It seems so simple, but it was a huge awakening for me.  I had always wanted to be a therapist and I had a job that allowed me to do just that.  What I had yet to discover was what it was about being a therapist that was drawing me to that profession.  It was the time with the kids, the clients that I wanted.  It was the feeling that I was truly helping and seeing that manifest in the classroom.  It was helping people see that life really can be okay.  But then there were other things that I really wanted from a job.  I wanted to be active.  I love sports and exercise.  I wanted to be able to talk about nutrition.  I wanted to be able to sleep in when I want to.  I wanted to be able to have fun and laugh and socialize.  I wanted to work somewhere that only does the necessary paperwork.

Once I figured this out, suddenly I started to see the signs.  And when I finally got my license in Marriage and Family Therapy I was able to apply to a few different jobs that I thought met some of that criteria.  And I was able to confidently turn down the higher paying job offer with better benefits to accept a job that met all of the criteria above.  Now that I know the secret, all I want to do is share it.  It’s so freaking simple that I want to shout it from the rooftops.

I took the time to figure out what I really want.  That’s it.  I spent some time on me.  I wrote in my journal about what I like to do, about what I’m good at, at what I used to love to do.  I researched some of those topics online.  I got honest about the fact that it’s possible that being a Marriage and Family Therapist might not be my true purpose.  It might actually be owning a retreat center, doing life coaching, running groups and hosting conferences with people like Martha Beck, Lissa Rankin and hell, maybe even Oprah giving talks and sleeping at the center.  It might involve coaching others in healthy living, stressing the benefits of a paleo lifestyle with playful exercise built in.  It might be talking to people about eliminating processed foods from their diet and getting the carcinogens out of their bathroom cabinets.  These are all topics that get me fired up and excited.  And all it took was taking the time to think about me.  My biggest obstacle was that any time I took journaling about me or researching what I loved, I felt like it was somehow taking away from something else I could be doing.  But what could possibly be more important?

Tell me, do you have the courage to find out what you want in life?  Do you have the motivation?

This is totally something you can do on your own.  It takes time and dedication, but it’s simple  If you need help, if you need an accountability partner, that’s what I’m here for, it’s my jam, it’s what I do best.  Give me a call at (808)343-4279 or click this link to set up your free 30 minute consultation.

Author: Mary Preston, LMFT

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Life Coach. Through dealing with my own anxiety and attention difficulties over the years I have discovered many useful practices and tools to help regain focus, shift my attention to what's important and to stay organized enough to get the life that I want. In my practice I work primarily with women and children with Anxiety, ADHD and Depression and I share what I've learned to get them back on track to living a full, purpose filled life.

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