what is the lesson in this career?



This week I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the greater significance that a career path has on our lives.

Similar to an a-ha moment I had about marriage, I’ve come to realize that a career is about much more than just our financial gain, or even our purpose.

As Mr. Lively and I approached the next stage of our relationship last year, marriage took on a whole new meaning for me. Instead of the common “finding Mr. Right” marriage paradigm, I swapped it for the understanding that a long-term partnership is about learning to grow as a human to become more understanding, compassionate, and universally loving.

Up to the point where we got married, I had reached a certain level of independence and self-mastery. I was far from perfect in these areas, but I knew that the greater evolution and growth I had to make as a person rested in the inter-dependence of sharing my life with another.

At that point our ceremony wasn’t so much about anything completely ego-induced (though it may be impossible to avoid all shades of ego in a special relationship), but it also was a symbolic new life lesson. To live with understanding, compassion, love, and support of another person as unconditionally as possible.

For me, life partnerships aren’t primarily about completing the other person or “making” them happy. It’s about learning and evolving as a human into a more compassionate, loving being and then sharing that love with the world.

Now, as of this week, I understand that there are greater contexts to our careers as well.

For a long time I’ve been keen on the idea that we all have talents to share with others, which may maintain our livelihood in many cases. At the core, these gifts center around simply serving those around us in whatever way we can in the present moment.

But I never made the connection to the greater life lesson that a career provides us as individuals. I’ve been so focused on how we can help others, I’ve never seen the power that a career can have in our own evolution.

For example, I have been self-employed my entire career. I have learned to serve those who work with and for me, I’ve learned to serve others through sharing my stories on this blog, and I’ve learned to serve those I consult with daily to help them improve their lives and businesses.

I have learned over the years to serve in these ways. I’m comfortable in these areas and they come naturally.

But my newest frontier, design, puts me in a new position. While I still am ultimately hired for my expertise in design and branding, I am also a contractor working for my clients.

I’m no longer serving from the same vantage point as I do in my other pursuits. I need to learn to serve someone that I work for.

I know that may seem obvious, or even perhaps easy for some. But for me, it’s something I have not done in my career before and that means that there is opportunity for me to grow.

I now understand that my design projects, for my personal growth, aren’t about “being a better designer.” They are here to help me serve others in a new way. To expand my compassion, love, support, and understanding for others.

Each day that I serve my clients, my focus now should not just be on the design I create, but also on the way that I’m serving the people who hire me. Elementary? Yes. But not something I’ve done before when working for myself.

The concept of life lessons in a career can apply to virtually any situation.

Earlier this week, for instance, I worked with a Life with Intention client who is at a job that she hates and has seen as simply a means to an end (money). She is working towards supporting herself with a new business, but until the business can support her, she is choosing to stay at this job.

Instead of looking at her time there as deplorable, but financially profitable, she too as a greater life lesson to learn.

For her, the people she works with are often negative, reactive, and afraid to make decisions. Because of this, she dislikes interacting with her co-workers and going to meetings.

During our session we discussed what greater lesson she might gain from this situation. For her, the concept of learning to not let others steal her joy is the greater meaning behind her position.

No matter how reactive or negative her co-workers might be, her lesson is to not let them steal her own happiness.

If she can truly learn this lesson in her current job, she will have that strength to apply to her business, when the time comes as well.

There may be upset customers, slow sales periods, or production delays that might try to steal her joy. But if she applies the growth she makes from this current situation, she’ll have greater patience and a steadier, more joyful outlook during her self-employment as well.

What she learns now will serve her for the rest of her life.

I believe that if we look hard enough, we will find that almost every job is ultimately here to teach us something far more valuable than our paychecks.


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  1. Kelly Brito

    I couldn’t agree more. There was not one company I’ve worked at, where I didn’t learn something (a skill, or to be more responsible, to work in group -or individually).

    I’ve been to a lot of places before figuring out what I really wanted and how to make of it a career… And all places I’ve worked at before, helped me in this choice.

    1. Jess Lively

      That’s awesome to hear! Where did you end up with your career after all the lessons?

  2. Sarah van Loon

    Love, love, love this post. And I’m loving your point of view/vantage point shift as well. Thanks for sharing and inspiring, Jess!

    1. Jess Lively

      Thank you so much! I’m happy to hear this is serving you. : )

  3. PinQue

    This has been weighing on my mind more than ever this week and my story is similar to your client…and I am so guilty of letting my negative coworkers steal my joy. All I can think of is how and when I can escape the environment, knowing that right now is not the time. Life is so much more than a paycheck!

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