When I graduated from college I had no intention of entering the traditional workforce. I taught environmental education, guided camping trips with teenagers, and led semesters abroad with gap year students. I filled any downtime in employment with substitute teaching. A desire for roots and community brought me back to Minnesota for grad school. I applied for a summer internship at Cargill and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I decided to stay. (And they decided to keep me!)
I look back at the last 10 years of my career with incredible gratitude. I still can’t believe some of the experiences I’ve had. My colleagues taught – and continue to teach – me lessons about courage, creativity, leadership development, coaching, and authenticity. I discovered that curiosity and listening are the keys to engaging and building trust with anyone, from a union leader in the middle of Ohio to an executive in Ecuador. I learned how to be vulnerable to give others the permission to learn and grow. I am here today because of these lessons.
Even through these amazing experiences, I always wondered if a full-time role in corporate America was the best place for me. Many of you have been reading my blog and know that I started to listen to that voice and seriously entertain the idea of entrepreneurship about a year ago. After much exploration and reflection, I put in my notice at work in July, went part-time in October, and my last day is Thursday.
Although I never felt like my life was particularly out of alignment, I have become increasingly aware over the past several months that I am now living in alignment. I am energized and inspired. I have never experienced this level of creativity. Amazing people are entering my life. The changing structure of my days fits my personality. The actual work I am doing and developing is aligned to my values, my skills, and the impact that I want to have. I am serving with my whole self. Life feels full of possibilities. It’s not easy, but it’s right.
My former leader at Cargill recently started a project called Significance Matters. On the website she and her husband have two different bios – their human doing bios and human being bios. Alignment is a collision between the human being and human doing. Instead of my being and doing existing separately or bumping into each other only occasionally, they are becoming one. This is the difference I feel.
What about you?
Most of the time we aren’t in vast misalignment. We tend to notice when our integrity is crossed or values blatantly violated. Subtle misalignment is harder to recognize and easy to ignore. It’s the boiled frog metaphor – if you drop a frog in boiling water it will leap out. But if you place a frog in cool water and slowly raise the temperature, it will boil to death without ever leaving the pot.
Are you in a pot with the temperature rising so slowly you don’t notice?
Are you like me? Generally happy with your life, but feeling like something is just a little off?
Pay attention to those sensations that tell you something is awry. Lean into the feeling. Get curious about it. Ask yourself where it is coming from. Do your best to withhold expectations or judgment from the response.
Once you recognize where you are out of alignment, you can make adjustments. Sometimes a big change is needed. Often more exploration. But just a tweak here and there will also help bring your human being and human doing closer together.
Heather Whelpley is a writer, photographer, and coach that works with clients to get out of unsatisfying jobs, create meaningful careers and lives, and fulfill their own potential. See her home page to learn more. She is also the host of Destination Soul Shine, a community dedicated to nourishing your soul and making your spirit shine. Like Destination Soul Shine on Facebook or follow us on Instagram @destinationsoulshine for resources to inspire you to live a meaningful, healthy, creative life.