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#130 Finding work you love

Finding work you love is no easy task. We’re talking about making a decision to spend eight hours a day (at least) doing something for the rest of your life. Actually, now days people change careers three times on average in a lifespan, so there’s slightly less pressure. But when I was growing up, you chose a career and you stuck with it. My father was a doctor, my mother had worked in the nursing care industry her entire life, my eldest sister was starting to practice medicine, and my other other sister was on her way to becoming a lawyer. No pressure whatsoever. Geez. High bar much! But I didn’t have to make that decision because the decision was made for me very early on. Right from junior high school I was very drawn to listening to people’s stories and struggles. I had a natural tendency to dive towards the deep stuff. I could see when a friend was struggling, and I wanted to help in any way I could. So I would sit beside her during lunch or a free period during the day and gently ask what was wrong. And for some reason, she would start to unwrap the struggle and sadness. The first time it happened, I listened, asked questions, and then when the tears started to come out, I would put my arms around her and hold her tight, which was when the flood gates started to open. The harder she cried, the tighter I held her. Sometimes we would sit there for a full fives minutes. But once she stopped crying, and we talked a little more, something amazing happened. She felt better. The heaviness of the struggle she had been carrying had been lifted. The first time this happened, I thought it was just about the coolest thing I’d ever experienced. But then it started happening again and again. I would find myself listening to people’s challenges and holding them in sadness. And it felt amazing for me too! It was so incredibly rewarding to me that there was something about me that made them feel safe enough, not only to open up and talk about some really hard stuff, but also to be completely vulnerable and shed tears in front of me. I was helping people, and I was hooked.

There was a famous psychoanalyst by the name of Alfred Adler (he’s the guy who came up with the inferiority/superiority complex in addition to other theories) who theorized that in early childhood we sometimes have a need that is not met. This results in feelings of inferiority, which we try to correct as we get older. As an example, a child who is made to feel stupid at a very young age, may spend his older years striving to be the smartest guy by achieving the highest degrees in school, getting the best grades, or working his way up the corporate ladder. I don’t believe in randomness. So when I started to think about why I was so drawn to counselling, which essentially is providing a safe, unconditional and empathic environment in which people could talk about their struggles and fears without any once of judgement, I thought about growing up as the third born in a family with two other daughters. I remember observing what was happening in the house and recognizing the chaos of a family of five. I could see that my parents were stressed (who wouldn’t be with three girls?), and somewhere along the way I figured it was best not to add to the stress. So I kept quiet and was well-behaved. This resulted in me not speaking up very much, even when things went wrong with me; even when I accidentally swallowed a penny, I just pointed at my throat before my dad threw me in the car and raced to the hospital. Not to worry though, once my dad told me that x-rays showed that the penny was lodged and that we would have to operate, I got so scared that I puked out the penny. Point being, I didn’t use my voice. Is it a coincidence that my job entails allowing others to use theirs? I don’t think so. Alfred Adler was a pretty smart guy.

I absolutely LOVE my job. I tried doing other things like marketing and management consulting. But I always found my way back to counselling. I get to spend my days listening to others struggles, and hopefully giving them the tools to work through them on their own. It’s challenging, interesting and incredibly rewarding. I found work that I love to do every single day. And THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING!


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