How to find the work we were born to do

Nick Williams

Nick Williams

Best selling author, coach, and thought leader Nick Williams shares his thoughts on how you can discover the work you were born to do.

In 1988, at my desk in London, I harboured a deep curiosity about what I could become. I was bored stiff in my well-paid and prestigious job in an IT company selling expensive computers to corporate clients. Some greater force seemed to be operating within me calling me to risk blossoming. I felt I had potential that was unrealised. But the greater part of me was terrified I would commit emotional suicide if I followed my heart and stepped off the conventional career path. Growing up with the hard work ethic, I’d buried any fancy ideas about doing something I loved. I believed work shouldn’t be enjoyable, but a necessity to earning a living.

Three years of this inner conflict later, I mustered the courage to quit, gradually creating my dream of writing, speaking and teaching, inspiring others to follow their hearts.
But first I had to become an example myself! Today I am living the work I was born to do, life is bigger, more meaningful and inspiring. I’ve written five books, one a best seller, have given talks in dozens of cities around the world, hardly able to believe that I get paid for it, too.

It seems ingrained in us to either sacrifice our dreams and our deeper self in return for a regular salary, or follow our heart and do something that inspires us and is meaningful, but holds no hope of financial success or security. The dilemma? Do you go for the money or the love and meaning? You can have both, but you need to move beyond the idea that work is something negative, and must involve sacrifice, pain, or boredom. Too few of us truly understand the vocational dimension of work – that it can be a blessing that we love, and which allows our unique gifts and talents to flow out and serve others. This is the work ethic of joy, and the highest view of work is wonderfully expressed by Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet, “Your work is your love made visible.” When your work is the canvas onto which you express your soul it is the job you were born to do, and is moving beyond sacrifice to inspiration, beyond dilemma to authenticity and leading to a life of meaning and success.

Your desire to discover the work you were born to do is not a selfish act but a spiritual impulse, and is actually one of the most generous things you can do for yourself. The question most people ask is how do I find mine? Over the past 15 years I have found nine particular ways that people come to find what they’d love to do. Sometimes the answers are on the surface, other times they are buried, needing excavation.

1. Through your inspiration, joy and a sense of calling
It is the work that would inspire you, you feel called to and your heart calls you to. It is what you are naturally drawn to and curious about.
It is what you would most love to do.

2. Behind your greatest resistance
The twin soul of inspiration is resistance, and often the work you’d most love to do is what you spend most time and energy procrastinating about, avoiding, making excuses why you haven’t done it and talking yourself out of. Many South Africans are beaten by their resistance and never reach their full potential.

3. In your shadow life
The talents you have disowned become your unlived life, which you can only see in others. You can be close to the work you’d love, but you are more comfortable seeing other people’s creativity and talent – afraid to acknowledge your own. Begin to put own your talents out there and move them towards the centre of your life. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.

4. Under the statement “I don’t know”
Often we genuinely don’t know, but with good questions and coaching, we can reach clarity. I don’t know also masks I am afraid to know because then I’d have to change, and that scares me even more. We can confuse I don’t know what with I don’t know how. Don’t deny what you know you’d love to do because you don’t know how you could do it and succeed with it. You can learn.

5. Through your naturalness, seen in the eyes of others
A great blind spot most of us have is to our natural abilities and talents. We value struggle, not ease, so don’t value or even see what comes easily to us, and can easily dismiss it, missing our own unique brilliance. Notice how others acknowledge and appreciate you.

6. Behind the words if only someone would pay me to do it
We believe we can pursue our dreams once we have been successful and have made our money, and don’t realise that we can support ourselves financially by pursuing our dreams. It stems from the belief that we either work for love or money, but not both. There is practically nothing today that you can’t get paid for. Think about what you would most like to be paid for doing or being.

7. In your lost dreams and your underutilised talent
Often, as children, we do know what we’d love to do, but we can be actively discouraged from it, criticised for it or somehow abandon our passions to join the grown up world of working for money. You can go back and reconnect with what you loved, and sometimes this can be painful but poignant.

8. Behind a wake up call or even a crisis
A refusal to listen to our intuition and deeper self could precipitate a full-blown crisis. Things fall apart and we can feel awful, but so many people speak in retrospect about their illness/redundancy/bankruptcy being the best thing that ever happened to them. It got them back on track to a greater and more authentic life, but they needed to be broken open, allowing the phoenix to rise from the ashes.

9. In a greater sense of yourself and an expanded sense of your identity
You have probably experienced a comprehensive conditioning in littleness – being told you are nothing special and that you shouldn’t think too highly of yourself, or at worst you are flawed or bad. Your spirit is limitless, and your inspired dreams may seem too big, but you are called to grow, not shrink away.

If it were as easy as that, we’d all be doing it, but the more important something is to you the more likely you are to experience resistance and not move forward. So here are some tips for overcoming your resistance.

* Commitment to turn up and take some action, even baby steps – the tiniest of steps build your momentum and bring your dreams to life
* Develop your courage – feel the fear, guilt, doubt or unworthiness but act in the face of them; don’t wait for them to subside. Engage with your fear to grow bigger than it.
* Learn the how to information and strategies – educate yourself and learn what you don’t know so you can move forward
* Don’t try and solve problems you don’t have yet – you can waste so much energy worrying about what might happen in the future. Act now, and deal with the future when you are there.
* Get higher quality problems – we all have problems so focus on problems you’d love to have, like “I have too many clients to be able to service!”
* Surround yourself with positive people – isolation is the biggest dream killer, and the belief, love and encouragement of others helps you bust through.

Step into your greater power, keep your focus on contribution; you have unique gifts and the world needs what you have, so give us what you’ve got.

Nick Williams is an expert on work and author of five books including the best selling The Work We Were Born To Do.
He works with individuals, entrepreneurs and corporations.
His dream is to spread a work ethic of joy and wants to give away 1,000,000 million copies of his free programme Discover The Work We Were Born To Do by 2012 – you can get your copy now at:

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