Matt, About Your Job: It’s Not About You

"This mantra misleads on nearly every front," according to this Diversified Insurance blog post

OK, so here’s where I’m going to provide the possible alternatives for Matt, but I want to lay out one overriding principle that I’ve learned in my travels in and out of employment and finding the best route for my life, and that is:

It’s not about you.  It’s not about you, but it is about finding your calling.  Sometimes you and God might not agree, but one of the best ways to distract yourself from the idea of retirement is to try to figure out how you and God can get on the same page.

I want to be perfectly transparent in my belief that finding the best path in life is not always about Finding Your Bliss or indulging in immediate gratification for the perfect work life.   Let’s face it–life is full of struggles.  To get to where you should be, sacrifice is always the price you pay.

So this theme of unretirement is really more about opening your heart and mind to alternatives.  Alternatives that might take your mind off of the typical  self-centered marathon of a life to cross the finish line at 65 with blinders on.  There are other ways to live in which your focus can be on the present moment instead of a future one.

Matt is lucky because he’s so young and life’s door is wide open.  But being young is sometimes a disadvantage for finding your true calling.  Sometimes you have to be like the writer in Ecclesiastes, or like Dorothy in Oz, wandering around until you realize that you spent a lot of time and miles searching for something outside yourself, not knowing that the real answer was right there in your own heart.

Perhaps Matt could get a head start on his course in life if he does what Lisa Kelly advises in her Ignatian blog post, Connecting to the Source,  In examining his alternative in life, Matt might simply want to take some steps to connect with the Source that will put him on the path meant for him.  This path might be something Matt hasn’t even imagined. It might be confusing to Matt.  It might be difficult.  But somehow, Matt will feel pulled in that direction.

Here is Lisa’s advice for finding new habits of the heart, which might apply in Matt’s situation:

Get over yourself—whatever you are going to be called to, if it is a higher calling, it’s not going to be about you. It is going to be about and for others. You are going to be the tool. Connecting to God will require putting aside your wants, your desires, your biases, your plans. Are you ready for that?

Get outside yourself- Stop judging and start observing, observing, observing. Be aware of what is going on inside. Ignatius taught his companion to just name what was going on inside and let it be what it is rather than trying to stomp it out or avoid it. He suggested seeing situations from multiple points of view—others in the scene, open to what insights may come from any vantage point, knowing God is in all of them. We are seeking what we don’t know or can’t see rather than reaffirming what we already think.

Make some space and time for your mind and body-The first step of the Examen is to settle ourselves and be aware of the Presence. While some spiritualities make this space by retreating from the world, Ignatius saw it as most important to do while within the world. Get out in nature and let your senses be overwhelmed. Let the cares and worries and constant chatter of your mind fade away into awareness of nothing but the present moment. If we don’t stop talking to ourselves, how are we going to hear the Voice that we seek? Centering prayer, yoga, meditation all help people practice being in that space that makes connecting to the Source far more likely because the chatter is kept to a minimum.

Give it wings. Trust what you glimpsed. Do something (even if you don’t know where it is going to lead you.) Get over your fears—don’t let that Spirit Not of God, get in your way. Run with it. Try it—knowing full and well you still have a long way to go. Prayer must result in some action or change to be complete.

So, perhaps Matt might decide to stay in his marketing job.  If he does, and if he pursues this job mindfully, he might decide to ignore the social cues the prompt him to keep up with his colleagues’ status symbols.  He might make a decision to stay out of debt, because as soon as you borrow, you are no longer living in the moment.  You are no longer free to follow God’s call.  And he might perform his daily tasks, as simple as they may be, with an attitude of service.

Or he might start mentally and prayerfully exploring other options, following his heart even if it seems counterintuitive to who he thinks he is, and what he thinks he wants.  So many saints found their way by ignoring their self-perceptions.  As Evelyn Underhill stated in The Spiritual Life:

St. Paul did not want to be an apostle to the Gentiles.  He wanted to be a clever and appreciated young Jewish scholar, and kicked against the pricks.  St. Ambrose and St. Augustine did not want to be overworked and worried bishops…St. Cuthbert wanted the solitude and freedom of his hermitage on the Farme, but he did not often get there.  St. Francis Xavier’s preference was for an ordered life close to his beloved master, St. Ignatius.  At a few hours’ notice he was sent out to be the Apostle of the Indies and never returned to Europe again.  Henry Martyn, the fragile and exquisite scholar, was compelled to sacrifice the intellectual life to which he was so perfectly fitted, for the missionary life to which he felt he was decisively called.  In all these, a power beyond themselves decided the direction of life.  Yet in all we recognize not frustration, but the highest of all types of achievement.

In out modern day, we have examples.  What do you think Albert Schweitzer‘s family thought when he gave up classical music to minister in deepest Africa?    What drove St. Theresa of Liseaux to inspire greatness with her spirituality of imperfection, with her Little Way?  What do you think Martin Luther King Jr.’s family thought when he took on leadership of the Civil Rights movement?   I really don’t see him sitting at Boston University saying to himself, “I think I’ll go home and put my family in danger and risk a nice life as pastor of a church and start a civil rights movement.”

So step one is to change our Habits of the Heart, as Lisa Kelly calls them.   Let Someone else do the coloring of our parachutes.