This week in North America we celebrate Thanksgiving, and for my part, I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to spend time with my grandmother-in-law Loretta before she died earlier this month at the age of 102. That’s quite a run, any way you measure it!
I’m also thankful about my career right now. However, I haven’t always been, which is why I can empathize with the people I talk to who don’t feel so thankful about where they are in their careers.
How do you give thanks when you don’t feel thankful?
If you’re not feeling thankful about your career, I’m not going to tell you that you should “count your blessings,” or “take inventory of how much you have”—not that I think those are bad ideas. But, let me propose something slightly different and maybe even more basic. It’s this:
Try a little trust
At my grandmother-in-law’s funeral mass, the priest said, “Loretta was a woman of faith.” She believed in God, and she trusted that she’d see Him in heaven when she died. In my set of beliefs, faith can translate to something I’m comfortable calling trust.
In what do I trust?
I trust that when I breathe out, I’ll breathe back in without too much trouble. I also trust that my heart will continue to beat, and that when I fall asleep at night I’ll wake up the next morning. I’m not being cute when I say that. I truly do trust in these basic things, and I don’t worry about them not continuing to happen.
More importantly, though, I find that I lean on this basic trust for less basic things as well—particularly when it has come to career choices.
During my last career move in which I left a nice corporate job to concentrate on building a coaching practice, I had no guarantees. I didn’t have a long list of clients waiting for me the day I quit.
Trust that what has sustained me so far will continue to do so
Why wasn’t I more afraid to take that leap of faith? The answer could sound counterintuitive: I was relying on past experience.
When I think back at all the things that have worked out for me—in my career and in my life—I don’t have any reason to think things will stop working out. It’s the same as not having a reason to think that I won’t be able to take my next breath after I’m done with the one I’m taking right now.
The priest at Loretta’s funeral mass mentioned how salvation isn’t something we “earn.” Instead, God simply offers it to us with His Grace, and all we have to do is accept it. In my mind, I interpret the priest’s words to mean: Trust that you are worthy to accept everything good that has happened and will happen to you.
Simply accept what’s good
Yes, there’s an element of “counting your blessings” when you engage in this type of thinking. But it’s less about taking inventory of things than about realizing that you’ve allowed the good things that’ve happened in your life to happen, and that you’ll continue to do that.
In my case, yes, I have a house, a loving wife, a house full of pets. And no, I’ve not gone broke or hungry—that’s the inventory part. But the more important part is that I trust all of that to continue to be the case in the future. It’s not that I take any of these things for granted, but I accept them openly.
When I think of my career, all my moves over the years have worked out OK. Even in the worst professional situations I’ve experienced, I’ve come out OK. And I trust that it’ll continue to be the case, and I’m thankful for it.
What if we accept who we are, our Purpose, and what makes us tick. And what if, instead of trying to control every aspect of the career we think we “ought” to have, we trusted that accepting all of that will lead us in the right direction. Wouldn’t we be happier and more thankful? I think so.
Goodbye, Loretta, and thanks for giving me this chance to reflect. I’ll miss seeing you.
Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high achieving professionals experience more fulfillment in their work lives.