The Pursuit of Happiness

Last weekend I was invited back to my alma mater, Bennington College, to be part of an alumni panel on careers and grad school. Bennington is probably the only school in the universe that would invite a Writing/Literature/Dance Major who eventually became a Yoga Teacher/Acupuncturist/Herbalist back to speak.

When I agreed to the event they told me I was going to be on a panel, but I didn’t really understand that the second half of the afternoon would include a Roundrobin experience. The roundrobin was set up like speed-dating with groups of 8 graduating students sitting down at my table for 20 minute sessions requesting the answers to the universe.

The introvert in me was nearly voiceless when I fully understood the rules. However the experience was magical. These 22 year-olds were magnificent. The questions that came up were heart-felt, nervous, honest and precise. They wanted to hear my story, not just random answers. They wanted to hear what was the worst part of life immediately after college and how to remedy it. They wanted to know how to live, not how to find a job. It was beautiful.

In almost every single group there were eight people contemplating the healing profession. Several were already done with 200-hour yoga teacher trainings, many were already envisioning specific healing careers and all were aware that the universe was about to pick them up and carry them along their way. They looked afraid and excited, but very ready.

The questions they were asking were the right questions. If they were asking me these questions, I trust/hope they were also asking themselves these questions.

The search for a career should be about the pursuit of happiness. A job doesn’t just makes us money, it is a definition of how we live out lives. Being an acupuncturist is as central to my career as walking to work or being my own boss. You can’t and shouldn’t separate the details from the work.

What I noticed speaking in front of these students is that I ended up talking a lot about what I wasn’t good at. I’m really not a very self-deprecating person so I think I’m on to something in noticing this. Finding our passions and our paths to happiness takes really examining that which we are not good at. Our weaknesses are a lot more telling than our strengths. I have plenty of strengths that are not helpful in my pursuit of happiness. For instance I am very good at raising my voice. I used to be a coxswain in high school and can raise my voice (in certain circumstances) to carry across water and large crowds of people. Outside of a boathouse I’m too embarrassed to raise my voice making the skill set entirely useless.

Talking about my history with these students I got to thinking about my fundamental weaknesses and how a simple flip allows them to be a step in a clear direction.

  • Dislike of being told what to do (be my own boss)
  • Inability to interact with lots of people (work one on one or in front of people)
  • Hatred of most meetings and collaborative work (work alone)
  • Dislike of wearing uncomfortable clothes (wear yoga clothes for everything)
  • Inability to maintain superficial connections with people (care deeply)
  • Inability to work for something that is not a passion of mine (be passionate)
  • Inability to work a 40-hour week (work enough and rest enough)
  • Inability to be away from home 5 days a week (work from home two days a week)

I’m a body-oriented person so the energetics behind finding the perfect career came up quite a bit. There is a reason I’m not a massage therapist or an MD or an RN. I’m just not physically strong enough. I don’t have the intellectual stamina to do research. I don’t have the emotional strength to be a mental health professional. I have enormous respect for the people who gracefully practice all of these professions. But I wake up each morning knowing I can meet the emotional, intellectual and physical demands of my current career. In fact I often leave work with more energy than when I arrived. I thank my brilliant, dedicated yoga students and wonderful patients for that.

What I found in every job I had along the way is that I was always faced with my own weaknesses. They were occasionally embarrassing, difficult to avoid and made the work exhausting.  This concept of overcoming your weaknesses is absurd and unnecessary. We spend so much of our life pursuing our career why not have it be something that really contributes to society. Stop working from a place of weakness and be powerful in the pursuit of your best path.

Image credit: mariusz_prusaczyk / 123RF Stock Photo

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