Jill Worth speaks to David Oliver about regaining the missing passion for our work.

David Oliver and his family were walking around Birdworld when they saw, shrinking away in the conifers, a golden eagle. “If it’s possible for birds to get depressed,” says David, “then this one certainly was. The magnificent bird was held in a tiny corner by a small chain. I had to physically restrain my sons from jumping into the enclosure and setting it free.”

Too many people feel like that chained eagle, David believes. False expectations and motives can hold them down in jobs that don’t suit them – sometimes simply to maintain a high standard of living. These people are struggling to get more meaning out of life. They are longing to lift their wings and fly. David says he hopes “to see those chains broken so that people can be lifted up and find a higher sense of passion.”

David describes some of the keys needed in order to find that passion:

 Be in the right job for you 
We are all created for a particular type of work, and it’s wonderful when we find it. But how do we go about finding that ‘Factor X’?

We have four children. With two of them, we knew what their likely ‘Factor X’ was early on. When my son, Joel, was six, and enjoying pulling up crabs on the pier, his mind was on other things. He wanted to know how much it cost to make the line, the hooks, the reels, and how many were sold. He was looking at supply and demand – it was easy to see where he was headed! In the same way, it was clear that Carleen was likely to go in a caring/nursing direction. But with our other two children, it wasn’t so clear.

In my experience, it seems uncannily similar in life: approximately half know and half don’t. So how can you be sure? One thing you can do is draw a target. On it, draw where your current job is in relation to the bull’s eye. If it’s not close, ask what would hit it.

Part of discovering who you are is to discover who you are not. Taking a year out for experience and assessment has worked for our family. All our children went away before they were 18 to make their own discoveries. Cheryl-Ann, for instance, helped run a stable for eight months. She had a lot of fun and also came back clear that her career did not lie in working with horses. Discovering who you are not is a critical part of the process.

 Avoid the lifestyle trap
Many people are in the wrong job because they are more concerned about their lifestyle than their vocation or their ‘Factor X’. Being more concerned about how much a job pays, rather than how well it fits their skills or abilities, means they are effectively funding a lifestyle with scant regard to the stresses that it will put on their enjoyment of work, and on their families.

This is a seductive trap. They are either in the wrong job and unable to enjoy it, or in the right job with the wrong motive or drive, and so the job is robbed of passion.

It’s well known that not only are we funding a lifestyle at high personal cost – but we often don’t have the time or energy to enjoy it! And much of what we own, we don’t need. When my wife and I moved to the States for seven months, we let our house. A year after we returned, we had only unpacked ten of the 200 boxes we’d stored in the loft while we were away!

 Settle the issue of not having enough time
Guilt is common among working parents. There’s too much to do in not enough time – at home and at work. And I guarantee you’ve never heard your children say, “Dad, you’ve played with us long enough now, so go back to the office and do more work”.

We need to accept our limitations. The problem is not that you’ve still to find the perfect schedule so you can do it all. The problem is that you don’t have enough time. As a result, someone is not going to get what they expect or need from you. If we think we can do it all, it can create pressure and stress.

None of us has bad intentions towards our families, but good intentions aren’t enough. For those with a faith, ask yourself whether you’re asking God to look after your family while you give to your career what really belongs to them. Accepting that you can’t do everything means sometimes saying “no”. It’s a seductive process which makes us believe we can say “yes” to everything.

When I was speaking to an audience of senior managers, one slightly tearful lady shared her story. She explained that she had made a New Year’s resolution to leave the office by 6pm every evening and, during the presentation, she realised the impact of her decision. “The desire to get it all done before you leave somehow gives the motivation and energy to accomplish more than normal,” she said. “This newly applied work/life balance process has meant more time with my family and has enabled me to have the energy and efficiency to get more done at work.”

These are just three of the keys David suggests. Turning these keys should begin to make a big difference to your life.

With thanks to Care for the Family UK

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