Are you doing the work that was born in you?
No man is born into the world whose work is not born with him.
-James Russell Lowell
A few months ago, a woman at one my workshops was stumped with a series of questions during the group-sharing portion of the module. The answer to these questions would reveal her childhood gifts and early interests, which would point the way to her work and the way she would do her her work in the world.
As the group continued through the other exercises (our intention was that each attendee walk away with an idea of their personal mission or purpose), this woman, a middle-school administrator, raised her hand. When I acknowledged her, she excitedly told us that she'd figured out her answer and wanted to share her it. Her enthusiasm was palpable, so even though we'd moved on to the next module, I encouraged her to tell us about her breakthrough.
"Well," she began, "when I was a kid, I loved watching the Jerry Lewis Telethon. You know, Jerry's kids? Raising money for muscular dystrophy?"
We all nodded, and she continued, "You asked us to think about what we wanted to be when we grew up, and I couldn't think of anything at first. Then I remembered how I dreamed of being that little girl who held the basket during the telethon. I wanted to do it so much that I would go around the neighborhood, getting all my friends together, and we'd have our own Jerry's Kids fundraisers. I was only 9 at the time, but I see how this is still what I do to this day. Organizing activities to help kids is still part of my work today!"
It's funny to me now that when I was a teenager, I had a pin button that said, "Work is a 4-letter word." Hey, wearing pin buttons were a fad when I was in high school, what can I say? Anyway, today I think about that phrase and realize that when we do our work - I mean our real work, the work that was born in us, as James Russell Lowell so wisely points out - it doesn't feel like the 4-letter word my button implied. Instead if feels like play (a much better 4-letter word!) and fun. It feels natural, so natural that we are compelled to do the work. If we deny ourselves the chance to do our work, we become mis-aligned, out of sorts, depressed, unhappy, angry, etc.
So, are you doing the work you love – the work that was born in you?