The ninth guidepost to embracing imperfection as the gateway to wholehearted living is meaningful work.
In the book Brene identifies five core truths about meaningful work and they’re really the backbone of the chapter, so I’ll just summarise them here for you:
- We all have gifts and talents. When we cultivate those gifts and share them with the world we create a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives.
- Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. Like unexpressed creativity, not activating your made in the image of God gifts takes a toll on our sense of wholeness, goodness and well-being. ‘We feel disconnected and weighed down with feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear and even grief.’
- Spirituality is an aspect of meaningful work – ‘sharing our gifts and talents with the world is the most powerful source of connection with God.’
- Using our gifts and talents to create meaningful work takes a tremendous amount of commitment, because in many cases the meaningful work is not what pays the bills. You may have found a way to do work that feeds your soul and your family, but most of us are piecing it together.
- No one gets to define what’s meaningful for you. Your gifts and talents are unique and so is the way you make meaning. And there’s no hierarchy at work here either – if mothering is meaningful work for you, that’s great. If it doctoring or planting trees or telling jokes it’s all about what works for you.
Pause for reflection
Write down a list of your good qualities, your talents and skills (it’s ok if you learned how to be good at something, you don’t have to have been born knowing how to play piano or paint or make friends) and keep going – see how clearly you can see all of the aspects of what you are especially good at. These don’t have to be unique quallities, talents and skills – the unique part is how you do you.
What do you notice about this exercise? How did you find it? What thoughts or feelings arose as you did it?
Now ask a few friends what they think you are particularly talented or skilled at and add those to your list. How was that? What have you learned?
Self doubt and when you ‘should’ on yourself
Maybe everyone has special gifts…except for me. Maybe that’s why I can’t figure out what they are.
Ok, so I do that well, but it’s not really special and it’s not really a gift – it’s not that impressive and loads of people can do it.
What does your self doubt sound like?
There’s a certain amount of trust involved in sharing your talents and gifts with the world, and we can let fear – of humiliation, of rejection, of disappointment, of failure, of comparison, of success, of criticism…etc etc. stop us from trusting enough to share.
What is it that scares you about sharing your unique, beautiful self with the rest of the world?
The ‘shoulds’ about what work ought to be and be like are also quite disempowering and demotivating:
- work should be about making money, not meaning
- you are meant to grow up to be a doctor/lawyer/engineer. Everyone’s counting on it.
- No one else in the family works, why should you?
- you should hate your work, that’s what makes it work.
- you should follow your dreams and don’t worry about money.
Ignoring the ‘shoulds’ and the scary feels doesn’t make them go away or get quieter – they actually get lounder and more insistent, so go ahead and write those down too. It’s counter intuitive, but writing them down doesn’t give them power, it gives you power. You get to look at them and assess them. You get to face them and say, OK, so I’m afraid of this. What do I need now so I can do it anyway?
A values exercise
I’ve done this ‘Pick your top values’ exercise twice with folks at church and it’s been a really interesting and insightful experience, but Brene now has a resource with accompanying questions to sharpen your focus as you choose your top 2 values and then some questions to help you identify what it looks like when you live into your values, when you are slipping away from them, what triggers the slippage and what supports the steadiness. If you aren’t sure what ‘meaningful work’ might look like, then dig in to your values and see what really defines your life/soul journey. You can download the form here.
Exploring the slash option with Lectio
Who says you can only do one thing? What if you are a pediatrician/board game maker? Or a courier driver/gardener? Or a professor/musician? Maybe there’s an on the side thing that doesn’t make much (or any) money, but it’s the sharing with the world part that makes it a work of the soul…so here’s a passage from the bible that probably familiar to you. Where is it connection with your life, your talents, your gifts, your light?
14 ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heavenMatthew 5
Pause with something soulful
These are a couple of things I’ve found inspiring and sharing them with you is part of how meaningful work works for me:
A poem for the earth please scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the audio to listen to the poet read this…it’s ….raw and beautiful and sad and hopeful.
And a piece of chainsaw art…it’s ok, the tree was already diseased and dying