A 2013 study performed by Gallup found that only 13% of employees surveyed across 142 countries indicated that they were emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organization. Nearly 2 out of 3 reported being negatively engaged which means they felt negative to even potentially hostile toward the organization for which they work.
Those numbers are somewhat astonishing. Even if they are off by a considerable margin, it is clear that a large number of workers show up each day for a job that they don’t like. The reasons for this are many, but one thing is clear: It is very difficult to have a successful career doing something you do not enjoy.
While there may be many reasons, I believe one major factor is many workers are working in jobs that do not really match their passions. We graduate from high school in our late teens and make choices in careers and education that will often shape the rest of our lives. The problem is at that age most are ill-equipped to really know what they were really created to be.
The Cure For The Common Life
I recently stumbled across Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot by Max Lucado. In this book, Max tackles the issues of whether God has uniquely gifted you with special abilities and how to discover those gifts and put them to use.
He begins by making the case that we are each uniquely and wonderfully made by our creator.
The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others. 1 Corinthians 12:7 (CEV)
Each of us have special gifts that are given to us by our Creator. When we know those gifts and use them in the marketplace to serve those that we come into contact with we will experience that “sweet spot” of knowing that we are doing just what we were created to do.
One of the keys to finding that sweet spot is in reading our lives backwards. By that he suggests examining our lives from our early childhood on.
Take Moses for an example. As a young Egyptian prince we are told that he was “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and mighty in words in deed.” Where do we see him first acting as an adult? Killing an Egyptian slave master who was abusing some young Hebrews.
What we see is a man who was created with a love of higher learning and a passion for fighting injustice and we continue to see those themes throughout the other stories of Moses life until he was finally called by God to lead the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt. This was the person God had prepared to be a leader, a law giver, and a deliverer of the oppressed. Those themes were present from his earliest days.
In the same way as we examine our own lives we should see common themes begin to emerge.
Finding your S.T.O.R.Y.
The Lord looks from heaven;
He sees all the sons of men.
He fashions their hearts individually;
He considers all their works. Psalms 33:13,15 (NKJV)
Max wrote the book in conjunction with the folks at People Management International. They have a process called S.T.O.R.Y. that he details in the book for finding those common themes in how God has fashioned your heart.
S = Strengths
As you look back over the things that have given you joy, what common actions do you see? What verbs occur frequently? These will help you see the unique strengths that you possess.
T – Topics
What things have you done where time seems to pass unnoticed? What activities have you worked on where you looked at the clock and suddenly realized it was midnight and you had no idea where the time went? In what activities do you feel completely absorbed when you are working on them? These will give you clues as to the topics where your passions lie.
O = Optimal conditions
What conditions make you feel like you come alive? Some love the thrill of high pressure situations and feeling like they can make a difference. Some thrive in highly structured environments while others love the freedom to make it up as they go along. Some like the stage while others prefer to be behind the curtain.
R = Relationships
Some love working in solitude while others love working as a part of a team.Some desire to lead while others are content in following. What roles and relationships have you found yourself gravitating to.
Y = Yes!
When you find that sweet spot that matches the talents and gifts you have been given, you will feel affirmation both internally and from others that you are doing just what you were made to do.
By looking at the things you have done that have given you joy through these lenses you should start to see those common themes emerge that will point you toward the life God intended for you. The book provides a number of exercises to help you work through these concepts and identify what you were made to do.
Find your sweet spot
It is very hard to achieve the success you are capable of when you are working a job that you hate and that doesn’t match your skills.
Max Lucado has long been one of my favorite Christian authors. He has a wonderful way of showing how God’s grace and love is woven through our story and he doesn’t disappoint in shifting the focus to our careers. I do believe that we have all been given unique skills and abilities. The world will be made a better place when you use your God-given abilities and God will be glorified.