A practice that has really enlivened my work is to attempt to tap into what's happening for my community (if you’re reading this, that’s you) on a collective level. Too often, our personal development strategies are created in isolation when actually, many of us are experiencing and working toward similar visions of a brighter future.
So when I sat down to compose this missive, I wondered, “what are we all experiencing right now?” And, “What are we collectively working toward?”
What I believe we’re experiencing is an environment in which efficiency, routine, and stability is valued more than our deep, soul-centered well-being.
We live in a system in which we’ve learned to focus on feeling materially secure while settling for spiritual chaos or emptiness. So many of us are in work situations that feel familiar or that may even feel like they’re good enough, but we continue to come to the same question we’ve come to for years: what if there’s more?
What if there’s a scenario in which I can be more creative, more effective, more nourished?
What if there’s more than enough money for each of us to meet our basic needs and feel secure?
What if there’s more I can do, be, express, explore, or invent?
And what if there’s more where that came from?
The Future of Work
This past weekend, I attended the inaugural Future of Work open space conference and learned more about what’s being predicted for workers in the next couple of decades. It’s what many of you probably already know: automation and the speed of technological advancement could result in a decrease of jobs as we know them and an increase in participation in the so-called “gig economy.”
More of us will be contract workers, flitting from gig to gig, compiling a web of experience instead of building a more linear career tower of layered experience.
That vision of the future strikes fear in many of us because it feels less secure than what we know now - even though most of us complain about what we know now.
The world is changing, and fast, and I’m choosing to believe that it can actually turn into a better place for all of us. I believe we’re all, in our own ways, working toward a more inclusive, healthier, and equitable future at work.
There’s so much we can do to prepare for - and create - this future, and I think the first step for many of us is to look at the underbelly of our ambitions.
What got us into this environment in the first place? Why are so many of us working harder than we’ve ever worked and still feeling less liberated than we ever have? Why do we still desire validation from people in power in our organizations even though we know that they can’t give us what we really want, which is freedom?
It’s not that we’ve all created this environment on our own, of course. It was done in concert with capitalism, which by its very nature creates poverty and a feudal relationship between workers and owners.
Enough of us know that capitalism (especially how it’s manifested in the United States) is a broken system, and we feel its effects on us every time we feel that yearning to work more so we can make more money so that we can pay for the things we think are meeting our needs.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
With this system crumbling around us, we can feel a strong urge to return to that which feels familiar - even if we know it isn’t ultimately going to help us.
We might recommit to jobs we know aren’t right.
We might try to stick it out in a toxic workplace.
We might network with the same kinds of people or spend all our money on a certification someone told us we should have.
But none of that can help us now. Our old ways of achieving, of building a career, and of developing can only lead back to where we are right now: tired, overwhelmed, and wondering if there isn’t something more to life than this.
Sometimes it takes many, many times of returning to what we know doesn’t work before we finally muster up the courage to be done with it, once and for all. There is no shame in that returning. Each of us has to have that experience, and I know personally what that’s like.
Just this past week, I went back to a transactional, empty, hopeless environment seeking validation for my career choices only to leave feeling used up and invalidated once again. The result wasn’t surprising, and it had happened enough that I finally feel resolved to never, ever, do it again. But I had to get to that point on my own.
If you’re at that place of wanting to really and deeply embrace a new relationship to work, I want to offer you some ways to access new information and insights that can help you move forward in a better way.
- Set up another informational interview with someone in the same industry who will tell you the same things you always hear,
- Go to another professional association meeting you hate but feel like you should go to,
- Consume another industry article that’s super boring but it’s what everyone else is reading,
- Update your LinkedIn profile with the latest trendy name for what you do because you think it will make you pop up in more search results, or
- Pine for validation from someone in power or in a gatekeeper position like a recruiter, manager, industry leader, etc…
Please try something different first! Try accessing your own insight and validation. Try connecting with your whole self, not just your ego or your mind, which is most likely in trauma or freak-out mode because of the world we live in today.
If we’re willing to look and engage very respectfully, without becoming rabid consumers, there is a wealth of ancient wisdom available to us in this chaotic time.
12 Ways to Create a Brighter Future, Today
Robots may take our jobs, but they can’t take away our inner knowing. Rather than continue the same activities we’ve been trying for who-knows-how-long, I see this time as an invitation to incorporate more intuitive practices into our professionals lives, individually and collectively.
Before you do any of the common activities above, please consider:
- Recording and being curious about your dreams (a resource: Toko-pa’s “Dream School” online),
- Looking up your natal chart and learning what your sun, moon, and rising signs are. See how they can show you what your gifts are. (Where to find your natal chart, and some of my favorite astrological practitioners: Chani Nicholas and Heidi Rose Robbins),
- Buying or borrowing a Tarot deck and pulling cards to see what’s going on for you right now, in your career or otherwise,
- Sitting outside for five minutes or suggesting a walking meeting,
- Having coffee with someone in a completely different line of work from you,
- Creating something instead of consuming something,
- Putting together a Pinterest board of photos that move you and noticing themes that might show you what you’re hungry for or drawn to,
- Getting acupuncture (You can visit a Community Acupuncture practice for $15-$35 per treatment),
- Lighting a candle and having a good cry,
- Taking a hot bath or going for a swim,
- Taking yourself out for a quiet coffee and journaling date, or
- Doing whatever feels like the opposite of your typical “professional development” approach
I know some of you will read this list and roll your eyes, or scoff, or generally just feel like none of that is going to get you closer to the career you want.
I get it. Part of me is very critical, and if you’d told me two years ago that I’d be recommending Tarot decks in a blog post about how to cope with the future of work, I wouldn’t believe you.
And Yet, Here We Are.
Here we are, so bedraggled by our outdated ways of working. So tired of being overwhelmed. So sick of hearing ourselves talk about how busy we are because we’re haunted by the fear that none of it is leading us closer to the life we really want.
In this place, we have a very urgent and simple choice to make. Will we continue to perpetuate a system built on the belief that we are resources to simply extract from? Will we continue to sell our creative spirit to whoever is willing to pay for it or to whomever we feel we need to be validated by?
If our work isn’t an expression of our self-love and our connection to Life at a foundational level, then we need to re-evaluate and adjust. And we can’t get there with more certifications, more networking with people we don’t like, or more false ambition.
A mentor told me recently, “To be radical, you have to be radical.” Meaning: If you really want to change the world, you have to live in a way that is that change embodied, here and now.
There’s no need to wait. Truly, there is no need. You can cancel that meeting and take yourself on an astrology date instead. You can call in sick and go for a hike. You can choose not to engage with the frenetic energy around you. You can do it.
In the future of work that I dream of, everyone is liberated and invited to contribute their unique gifts. Everyone is spiritually connected to their work, whatever that means to them, and their ability to meet their basic needs is not tied to whether or not they can work full-time toward a vision that’s not theirs.
How can we begin creating a liberated future for all workers, right now? I’m working on a new project to answer that question, but more on that later.
For now, we can each choose to liberate our spirits and give those around us permission to do the same.