I have always envied the Biblical heroes like Moses, Jacob or Abraham. They seemed so lucky as compared to me. God appeared to them and told what to do next. That hasn’t happened for me. In fact, if I ever saw a burning bush, I would take an extinguisher and put it out before the fire spread any further.
It seems that life would be so much easier to figure out if God’s voice came in a light that shined on your head or a booming voice from the skies, but that is not how it works. All of our messages are subtle and they come from within each one of us. This can be disappointing for anyone who is expecting a visit from an angel to disclose his or her life purpose. This is specially true if you think it must be something really visible and important, like the next Mother Teresa or Gandhi. Well, I am here to tell you this is not how it happens, your enlightenment can happen right where you are, doing exactly what you are doing. But it takes your open mind to open the door to your purpose.
I went through a very difficult period in my life when I lost faith in my career. I had been working for the Colorado Department of Transportation for fifteen years where my approach to my engineering profession had been simple; pursue every promotion and/or pay raise. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was an unconscious participant in the well-articulated pursuit of “he/she who dies with the most toys wins”. Everything seemed to be working just fine. I got every promotion and pay raise I pursued. After a decade long pursuit, I achieved the title I had chased for over a decade, I was named the Region Director for the Denver area.
My elation only lasted a few days before a deep and dark depression moved into my consciousness like an eerie fog. There was no explanation why my greatest triumph left me believing I had wasted my life climbing up the ladder of success only to discover that it had always been leaning against the wrong wall. I became distraught and uncertain about what to do next.
Rather than examine the inherent problems with my approach, I blamed CDOT for my troubles. Surely what ailed me could be cured by a change in jobs. Following that conclusion, I upgraded my resume and sent it to engineering companies around the country.
My search proved successful. In the next two years, I was interviewed and offered half a dozen different jobs. The thought of a change was always exiting at first, but before long, my fog of depression filled in every inch of my temporary emotional clearing. In the end, I could not bring myself to accept any position that was offered. I finally gave up trying, which added to my internal darkness.
With no apparent change in sight, I felt stuck, which made me even more miserable. Out of desperation, I sought professional counseling.
It was my therapist’s question that provided a light at the end of my dark emotional tunnel. After noting that I was only focusing on the negative about my career, he asked me to describe any moments of joy and satisfaction I had ever experienced.
I recalled the many times I had worked with a great team of people to deliver a great transportation project to the affected community. I reflected on the wonderful camaraderie and fun we developed as a team. How I looked forward going to work because I knew we would inspire each other to do our best. I had experienced how the whole of us together was greater than the sum of each individual. I concluded my remarks to my therapist with this,
“Here we were, ordinary people, yet the project we delivered was like a miracle from the Bible.”
At this, the doctor replied,
“Sounds like you found your own answer, you get your sense of satisfaction in working with great people and delivering something of value to your community. Perhaps you have put too much emphasis on what you can get to make you more important, wealthier or better known and ignored what gave you pleasure.”
It took work for me to accept what he was saying, but I got there. My answer had always been under my very nose, but my self-seeking had obfuscated my sense of purpose. If I was to find fulfillment, then I needed to pivot internally from a focus on me to an emphasis on we. As I made this shift in my internal focus, I realized that I was contributing to a greater good by helping others create a multimodal transportation system for the Denver Area. I was in the perfect job all along and I was able to recommit to CDOT. My depression faded in a matter of a few months,
This pivot was the important lesson for me. The way we add true value to ourselves is by helping improve life for others. This decision changed my life and has filled my career with great joy and incredible experiences.
Today I can see this pivot from me to we in any circumstance. A mortgage banker can experience joy by turning from the obsession about money onto helping families fulfill their dreams. A car sales person can change from a focus on sales onto a real desire to provide individuals with the best way to solve their mobility needs. A politician can pivot from the desire to maintain their position of power onto a real commitment to work with others in providing a greater good for all of his or her constituents.
The great thing I learned from this experience is that, no matter who you are or where you are in life, this pivot is always available. Joy and satisfaction are yours by just shifting your focus to working for the good of the many.
Call to Action
We are all immigrants! Whether we left a country for a fresh start in another, or whether an unforeseen life change has sent us on an unexpected path, this cycle of death and rebirth is at the center of our human evolution and can alter us in ways we don’t fully understand. If you are going through such a period, I can help. If your organization is going through a challenging phase or serves people whose lives are in flux, like immigrants, seniors, or communities that are unappreciated, I can help as well. The combination of years and experiences have molded me into a messenger uniquely qualified to write, speak and mentor on the subject of discovering the inner resource that will convert difficult transitions into positive triumphs. Check out my website for the services I offer and to subscribe to receive my weekly blog.