The lessons I wish I had learned at school to prepare me for my real work
As a child, I loved school. I had a mind suited for traditional types of learning. Even though I breezed through subjects like math and science, I most certainly was not trained for any kind of fulfilling or meaningful work. For that, I had to go on my own educational journey.
In my early adult years, I followed a somewhat conventional path. I went to university and earned my degree in chemical engineering. After I decided I didn’t want to work in that industry, I returned to post-secondary school and completed a diploma program in an entirely different field. Then, without much further consideration, I entered into the working world.
As was typical, I started at the entry level and worked my way up through the ranks as I gained proficiency. Eventually I accumulated enough experience to start my own business. For a time, I was satisfied. I had great clients and plenty of interesting projects for which I was well-paid, however, I never felt as though I truly reached a level of excellence in my work. At best, I would say I was highly competent. In retrospect, I can see the reason for this was that I just didn’t care enough about the work to commit to it with my heart and soul. I was merely doing what was necessary to get by. It should be no surprise then that the moderate level of success I achieved in my business plateaued. I reached a point where I could no longer evolve, and that was when I began to languish.
My disheartenment was subtle at first. I simply lost interest in my work. But I kept trudging along the same path because I didn’t know what else to do. Inevitably, my apathy devolved into resentment mixed with bouts of rage and depression. Of course, I recognized that something had to shift, however, I didn’t know exactly what it was that needed to change. I mistakenly put the blame on the industry I was working in, so I went back to school. Again. I earned yet another designation that enabled me to change professions. Again. But in my heart, I knew this wasn’t going to resolve what was deeply troubling me.
“Is this really all there is?” I questioned. “I wake up. I spend the majority of my time doing something for others just to make money. I go to bed to do it again the next day. There must be more. But what is this more I’m looking for?” This inquiry is what inspired the journey to where my real enlightenment began.
Over time, it became clear to me the real reason I couldn’t thrive in my work was because it was out of alignment with my true self. I kept defaulting into work based on what I knew instead of consciously creating work that was an expression of who I am. I realized the work I desired was never going to be found out in the world, the only place I was going to discover it was within. I needed to learn who I was and what I had to offer the world.
My clarity about my inspired work came to light in an excruciatingly slow manner. This was because I had to bump around in the dark to figure it all out. There was no map to what I sought. There was no school to guide me on the inner journey to discover who I am, which is why I created this one. The lessons I wish I had learned at school to prepare me for my real work are the ones I now share with others.
The lessons I wish I had learned at school
I appreciate there are circumstances where the fact that I learned how to conjugate French verbs and solve partial differential equations would render me useful in the working world, however, for me personally, it would have been much more beneficial if I had learned how to:
Question my limiting beliefs
Our beliefs create the experience of our life. This awareness alone supersedes anything I was ever taught at school. It was profound to learn that the limiting stories I had been carrying about work and about myself were actually preventing me from living an inspired life. Thankfully, I also learned that we choose what we believe. Thus, if we are willing to let go of the old limiting beliefs, we are free to choose new ones that allow for new, more expanded experiences of life.
Trust my own inner guidance
As youngsters, we are conditioned to believe that others “know better”. We are told to listen to our parents, our teachers, our world leaders – even when they are disconnected from their own truth. When we make life decisions, such as what to do for work, based upon others’ expectations, the result is we end up being taken down unsatisfying and dead-end paths. It is seldom taught that we each have a built-in feedback mechanism within ourselves that provides us access to all the knowingness we ever need. When we learn how to tune into and trust our own inner guidance, we are led on a fascinating and joyous adventure.
Work as an act of love
Our school system was designed to prepare us for work. The current system is centuries old, and to this day work is still defined using the same antiquated perspective. Primarily, it is seen as a way to exchange our skills, time, or effort for money. This is inhuman. There is no acknowledgement of our desire to love our work, ourselves, and each other. Work is an opportunity to open our hearts and offer our gifts from a place of love.
Determine my own meaning
Some people spend their entire lives searching for purpose. It was the greatest liberation to learn there isn’t any purpose in life – outside of myself. I get to choose what makes my life meaningful to me. So do you. If you’re still searching for work that gives you purpose, you can stop the futile quest. It doesn’t exist. It is up to you to determine meaning. When you decide for yourself what that is, then you can finally start working on purpose.
Identify my strengths, gifts, and talents
Schools are so preoccupied with teaching skills so that we become “valuable” to the working world that they overlook the most important asset a person has, which is themselves. Skills are learned attributes, however, each of us is born into this lifetime with an inherent set of strengths, gifts, and talents that are natural to our being. They are not something we must learn, they are simply who we are. For our genuine fulfillment, it is necessary that we recognize our unique abilities and create opportunities in our work to apply them.
Dream up big ideas
Have you ever excitedly told someone your dream only to have them retort that your idea is too “pie in the sky”? Slowly, over time, we are trained to stop dreaming and start being “more realistic”. This happens because most people don’t understand the value in dreaming. Dreams are not goals. Dreaming is what open us up to receiving new ideas, and these ideas are basis of all new reality. Dreams are what actually move humanity forward. I hope you have big dreams. We need them. Especially now.
Harness my creative ability
We are all creators, but we are not taught in school how to consciously access and utilize our own creative energy. Every person’s creative process is slightly different and we each have specific conditions we need to plant the seeds of those ideas from our dreams and grow them into our inspired work.
Schools teach us that success is binary – either you pass or fail. Life teaches us that failure is necessary on the pathway to success. It is our failures that provide the biggest insights and breakthroughs in our work. All who have ever created anything significant will happily tell you their failure stories. They understand the failures are not indications of their worthiness, they are simply welcome pieces of information about what to do next.
Honour the ever-unfolding journey of life
To live in a world that is outcome-driven can be quite dissatisfying because it feels as though we never truly arrive at our intended destination. But if we did, that would mean we were dead. We must celebrate that untethered feeling of living in the state of becoming. Our inspired work is simply a pathway to the ever-unfolding journey of life and the delicious anticipation of those yet-to-be-realized experiences is what makes it all worth living.
All these years later, it is obvious to me now that the “more” I was looking for was me. And the only way I would have ever been able to fully commit my heart and soul to my work is if it allowed me to be my true self. I have finally comprehended that this is my real work in the world – to know myself and to be all of who I am. My biggest lesson learned.