“Your being alive makes worthiness your birthright.” This quote by Oprah Winfrey is one of my all-time favorites and it is something that I wish I had embraced and understood a very long time ago.
When I think about our worth and our purpose, I think about all of the areas we try to find it; all of the ways we try in vain to prove that we are worthy. What I found in my own life is that all of them came up empty for me and simply left me with continual striving rather than acceptance that I am worthy for one simple reason, I possess a spark of the divine within me.
One of the areas I see so many of us searching for worthiness and purpose is our work. I find this especially true for men. Think about the last time you met someone new, whether it was at a dinner party, a corporate event, or other social settings. How long into the conversation did it take you to ask or be asked, “so, what do you do?” In many conversations, it is often asked within the first few minutes. While it is easy to dismiss this as small talk, the fact that this question is asked so often gives perspective into what we as a society value. What’s more, our answer to this question often provides great insight into how we identify, and where we look to find our worthiness.
We are so obsessed with what we do for a living, that we look to our professions to give us the validation we so desperately desire so we can feel worthy and define our purpose. When this does not bring us what we desire, we end up unfulfilled and restless and inevitably either work harder in an attempt to find what we are missing or hating the work we are doing and losing our passion.
A 2018 article in Relevant Magazine highlighted this issue in an article entitled “You Need To Stop Ignoring Your Need For Rest.” In it, Adam Mabry writes:
“According to the CDC (American Center for Disease Control), we Americans work more than anyone else in the Western World. Presumably, this is to pursue the American Dream. But for many of us, busyness overtakes the dream, and, in a strange twist, becomes the way we determine who is important.”
What would it look like if instead of starting with our titles, professional achievements, and accolades, we began with what is deep inside us? I would like to suggest that it would fundamentally change how we view ourselves and enable us to get more fulfillment from our work.
What Moves You?
In my office on the top of a bookshelf sits a picture of my seven-year-old self. I keep this picture there to remind me that no matter how old I get, what accomplishments I have to my credit, deep down inside I am still that seven-year-old kid. The things that brought me joy, the things that made me come alive have only been coated with the sheen of maturity, but for the most part, they are the same.
It was this realization that helped me identify my core purpose in life and when I am living out this purpose it is relatively easy to embrace my worthiness and keep the voice of shame at bay.
As a kid, I was known for and loved to help people. I would ride my bike up and down the street and ask neighbors if they needed help doing anything in their yards, I enjoyed doing extra jobs for teachers and for the most part, enjoyed helping my dad around the house.
To this day, helping people is one of the things I do that brings me great joy. It does not matter if it is cooking dinner for my family, helping a neighbor or coaching a client, I still get immense joy from it and know that I am living out my purpose, just like the seven-year-old did.
Rather than us trying to find fulfillment in our work, look at finding fulfillment by living out your purpose in your work. Once I was able to unlock that and know the difference, my entire view of work and business changed radically.
Are there still bad days and good days? Of course! However, I can assure you that the good far outweighs the bad, and my identity and worth do not ebb and flow with the ups and downs that can be found in a business or in other people.
As you move forward, journey back to your true self, your inner child, and take the time to identify what it was that brought you life and joy, write them down. See which of those is true today and begin finding ways to live this out in your work for when this occurs, fulfillment can be found.