I've seen it enough times to know it's not an isolated occurrence. A client of mine engages in work that on the surface looks to be worthwhile, yet gains no fulfillment from it, dreading work and wishing they were doing something else. How can that be? Isn't work that's worthwhile supposed to leave us feeling fulfilled? Aren't we good at discerning what is worthwhile work?
The question on their mind is: how is it that worthwhile work can be unfulfilling?
The great disconnect
The problem is a subtle one, and that's why I believe it is so prevalent. The core problem is that there is a disconnect between the head and the heart.
The brain is a tool and it's ability to solve problems is limited by three qualities:
- its innate aptitude
- its experience/training
- its input
These three components are in play every time we ask our brain to solve any kind of problem. We can't change our innate aptitude, that's what we're born with. Our education and lifetime provide us with experience and training, essentially giving us patterns for solving problems. The final piece is the one that's the most important to this topic, the input.
You can have the sharpest mind, have had amazing life experiences, but if the input you're giving your brain regarding a problem is bad, then your brain won't be able to come up with a good solution, it's simply impossible.
The problem many people are having when I speak with them is that they've been feeding their brain incomplete input, it's no wonder then that it keeps coming up with solutions that feel incomplete. What is this input, and why is it incomplete?
The input being fed to our brain is to find work that is "worthwhile and fulfilling." With this our brain goes out and looks for what society considers to be worthwhile and fulfilling, and presents that as the solution.
What that often looks like is non-profit work, or anything billed as "changing the world" (think any tech start-up). We then pursue those jobs, get them, and mysteriously find ourselves lacking fulfillment and feeling lost. Our brains are telling us that the work is fulfilling, and we want to believe it, but something just isn't clicking.
Here is the problem: your heart doesn't care what your head thinks.
Your brain can tell you how worthwhile the work you're doing is, and what a great impact you can have on the world or your surrounding, but your heart just isn't having it. The heart wants what it wants, and nothing your brain can say will change that. Well what does the heart want, and why doesn't the brain know about it?
The mind is sharp, the heart is dull
If you think about your education and life experience up until this point, how much emphasis has been placed on sharpening your mind and turning it into an incredible tool for productivity, and how much time and effort has been spent teaching you how to listen to what's in your heart? Our post-renaissance society loves logic, reason, and order, and while these are incredibly important, they don't paint a complete picture of our humanity.
What has been lost are the softer skills, the ability to know and understand our own emotions, to inhabit the stillness and listen deeply to the hopes and dreams that live within us. Most of us were simply never taught how to do this.
When we give our brains input for what job to find us, we're giving it only a fraction of the information that it needs to do a good job. We're not providing it with input regarding the How of the work we want to do, and often don't include the Context that we want to work in either.
It's no wonder that our brain does poorly when finding a career or job for us to fall in love with, it's doing the best it can with what limited information we are feeding it. When we're unsatisfied, we ask our brain to come up with a different solution, without giving it any additional helpful information. So the cycle goes.
Listen to the guide
The heart is the guide while the brain is the tool. We need to become in tune with our hearts, and learn the ability to listen in to what it desires for us. When we are able to do this we gain additional input for our brains to solve the problem of finding us meaningful and fulfilling work.
For many this is a difficult process, and where they most benefit from having someone to show them how to do it. This often comes about organically during a coaching session, as the client is talking, a story is being told between the lines, almost as if the heart is sneaking out coded messages, hoping to bypass the filtering of the brain.
A coach's job is to pick up on those messages, decode them, and play them back to the client. Oftentimes it's amazing to do that and see the client's face change as a new awareness spreads across their consciousness. Something inside of them shifts as a direct connection is established between the heart and the head. The wheels in the head begin to turn and work on the problem with this precious new information, and the client is able to finally move forward.
Your heart is your guide. If you're deaf to it, how do you expect to find your way?