This is an excerpt from Susannah Conway’s new book, This I Know: Notes on Unravelling Heart. Want to win your own copy of Susannah’s book? Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered!
Turning our passions into a job does not always work out and not everyone wants to do their passion full-time. For some they remain wonderful pastimes that bring joy and fulfillment exactly as they are. But for those of us who are dissatisfied with our day jobs and feel called to find work that reflects our true interests, the clues to achieving this are already in our lives — we just need to know where to look for them.
The first clue is how you spend your spare time away from your day job. Do your interests involve volunteering or travel? Do you like to make things? Are you a member of any societies? Do you like to be out in nature or working on projects at home? What books and magazines do you buy? What would you do every day, even if you weren’t getting paid? Sometimes our passions are not obvious, so pay attention to what you do rather than what you say. If you’re not sure where your true passions lie, or feel you have too many, think about the interests you had as a child — what did you want to be when you grew up? Is there anything in your life now that reflects those early dreams?
When was the last time you were really excited about something?
Next, think about where your true talents lie. What comes easily to you? What are you good at? It might be organizing gatherings and managing people or maybe you’re the next Nigella Lawson in the kitchen. Do you have a knack for color coordination, or are you the dog whisperer in your family? What do your friends ask you to help them with? What have you always had a flare for?
Be sure to consider the difference between the pastimes you enjoy and the skills you have a true aptitude for. For example, I’ve always enjoyed painting and am in awe of artists who draw from their imaginations, but while playing with paints and canvas is fun once in a while, I know my true talents lie elsewhere. I could learn to paint better, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. Taking well-composed and evocative photographs, on the other hand, has always been my gift.
True talents can be honed and expanded but from the very beginning there’s an ease threaded through them.
My sister is a gifted illustrator and teacher, and whenever I’ve seen her teach I’m impressed by how she wrangles a room full of art students, opening their heads and shining a light inside. I, on the other hand, teach best online, using images and writing to inspire, connect, and create community. When we find the right forum for our true talents, synapses spark and ideas solidify.
Think about where your true talents intersect with how you spend your time. Where’s the sweet spot for you? When my e-courses took off it became clear how my hobby — blogging and online socializing — and my true talent — photography — melded so well together. I’d been creating the pathway to work I was passionate about, unbeknown to me.
The final factors to consider are the community and connections you have around you, and how you inhabit that world.
If we hope to be paid for the work we do it can’t be done in a vacuum; at some point other people will need to get involved. At its most basic, work is giving our time, services, or goods in exchange for money from an employer, client, or customer. If the skills you have mean you’ll be making a product then you’re in search of customers; if you offer a service, you need to find clients. It may be that your true talents are best shared with an employer, but no matter whether you’re selling goods or your time, other people are necessary.
As an introverted soul, I like the relative privacy my online business gives me, despite seemingly being “out there” all the time. Working from home is perfect for me but a more extroverted person would likely find it isolating.
What suits your personality?
Working for ourselves brings a sense of freedom into our lives, but it can also get lonely—do you work better with a partner or a team? Who can you reach out to in your community right now?
I’ve only touched on a few possibilities in the space I have here, but whether you’re in between jobs, craving change, going back to work after a period away or just sure that you were meant for something more, the best place to start is within, unraveling the dreams that call to you when you close your eyes.
And of course, not everyone wants to change jobs, but having spent time with my community, both off- and online, I know that if you’re creatively inclined and feel drawn to the thoughts in this book, you most likely yearn to express your authentic self in all you do. It’s a desire that touches all parts of our lives, from our relationships with our family and friends, to our work, beliefs and even the place we live. It doesn’t surprise me that the years I struggled with my working life were also the years I was the least connected to myself.
And this is why we unravel — to heal the hurts of the past so we can move forward unencumbered by the baggage that’s kept us small; to heal the hurts of the present so we live each day with intention and awareness; and to know how to heal the future hurts when they happen, because they will and we’ll be ready.
Susannah Conway is the author of This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart (SKIRT!, June 2012). A photographer, writer and e-course creator, her classes have been enjoyed by thousands of people from around the world. Co-author of Instant Love: How to Make Magic and Memories with Polaroids (Chronicle Books, 2012), Susannah helps others reconnect to their true selves, using photography as the key to open the door. You can read more about her shenanigans on her blog at SusannahConway.com and connect with her on Twitter: @SusannahConway.
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Win your own copy of This I Know!
One lucky Scoutie Girl reader will receive a copy of Susannah’s book. Simply leave a comment below and you’ll be entered. Winner will be notified via email by June 15, 2012.