At some point, each of us begins to evaluate how we make a living, and whether or not our career choices are at odds, or in harmony with, our morals.
Early career choices are led by ambition and financial necessity. Once we reach middle age and have accumulated life experiences, we begin to recognize the value of love and friendship, and question how we spend our time. Are we in alignment with our values and if we aren’t, how do focus on what’s really important?
As a first step, you need to identify your values:
- Brainstorm a list of words that best describe you and your values. Words like integrity, learning, freedom, or nature may come to mind. Be sure to clarify what these words mean to you by defining them.
- Think about a time in your childhood when you were really happy. What were you doing? What values were you honoring?
- Think about an unhappy time in your childhood, or some time more recent. What values were you ignoring? We can learn just as much from negative experiences as we can from the positive.
With your list of values complete, ask yourself how are you honoring them today? To help you with this exercise, you can use a tool such as the wheel of life (click here to download). If you score less than 5/10, it’s probably time to reconsider how you can bring your life back into alignment.
Re-aligning your career with your values doesn’t necessarily mean taking a financial hit just so you can do the work you really want. Initially, while you figure out your longer-term vision and strategy, focus on how you create space and time in your life for more of what fulfills you. This might, for example, mean bringing more art into your life. One of my former coaching clients who was earning a six-figure salary in the corporate world found fulfillment by taking classes and nonprofit volunteering before embarking on a career change. She is now a full-time, successful artist. You can rely on available resources along the way, like executive coaches, that help you through insightful questions and accountability.
Achieving a “second career” that brings you a more fulfilled life can take more time and planning than a traditional path, but you can definitely continue to make a living while honoring your values.