We all know the saying ‘find a job you love and you’ll never have to work another day in your life.’ Like all clichés it represents a powerful truth and it is certainly true for me, writes executive coach James Sweetman.

A couple of decades ago, I resigned from my secure, salaried role as Customer Services Manager in a large multinational, to step into the unknown. Here’s what I wish I had known back then.

1. Feeling stuck means a change is trying to take place 

In 2000, I left my well paid job because I wasn’t happy. I could see a corporate career stretch in front of me and something deep down told me there has to be more to life than this. We will all experience degrees of ‘stuckness’ from time to time and this lack lustre ennui is always a sign to shake things up.

For more tips on ‘Getting Unstuck’ check out this short video. I’m speaking from personal experience! 


2. Change is messy, uncertain and never linear 

Life is change and to resist change is to resist life. In reality, we don’t really resist change, we resist change being forced upon us and we resist feeling uncomfortable. Change is growth, just think of those forest fires, but of course change is easier when you are the one holding the matches!

We can never see the end from the beginning. I love the Martin Luther King quote ‘faith is taking the first step even though you can’t see the staircase.’ We move forward trusting that as we take the first step, the next step will come into focus.

3. Worry is part of the human condition, learn to dance with it 

We all worry; it’s part of our defence mechanism. The antidote to worry is to focus on what you can do in the present (the only place where we can take action.) Worry is the long shadow of a possible future experienced in the present. I see worry as a reminder to exercise greater faith, both in myself (that I will take the right action when the time is right,) in the Universe/ God, (I love the Rumi quote ‘the Universe is titled in your favour,’) and that things generally have a tendency to work out.

4. Cultivate and rely on your instincts and inner wisdom 

I did worry that I was making the biggest mistake of my life, but my instincts told me I was doing exactly the right thing. When I made the decision to leave, I immediately felt better, lighter, relieved. As is often the case, in the six months I wrestled with the decision my health suffered. Physical disease reflects mental dis-ease. I now know that ease, the path of least resistance, flow, being in the vortex (as Abraham Hicks would say) is strongest indicator that I’m on the right path.

5. No experience is wasted 

People told me I was mad to leave my senior job in a company where I had been successful and had a career path ahead of me. I had climbed a career ladder but it had been against the wrong building. However, I needed to climb so I could see the bigger picture.

My years of being an employee in the corporate world, the project management experience, living through complex change, managing teams, working in sales, delivering presentations, managing customer expectations and building working relationships all continue to serve me.

6. There will be clues 

In his famous address to the Stanford graduating class in 2005, the late Steve Jobs used the phrase ‘you cannot connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.’ The ‘dots’ being those clues as to your passion and perhaps purpose in life. Looking back I can see several obvious ‘dots.’

  1. I’ve written a diary entry every day since 1st January 1986 and when I have an issue or challenge I always ‘right/write it out.’ (Four books later, hundreds of articles and 128 editions of my monthly ezine Next Steps I think I can call myself a writer.)
  2. When I worked as a manager in the corporate world I instinctively had 1-2-1’s with my team, focusing on their personal development and growth. (I now have 1-2-1 coaching sessions with clients every day of the week.)
  3. When I did my MBA in the late nineties I wrote my thesis on the topics of motivation, leadership and employee engagement. (Themes that are central to the workshops I now facilitate in organisations.) 


7. What to do when you don’t know what to do 

These two questions have never led me astray, they keep me aligned with life which is always concerned with growth, expansion and moving forward. When you are unsure what to do, these are the questions to ask.

  • What decision represents forward movement?
  • What decision would make me feel most proud about myself?

8. You have to be brave to show up as your authentic self 

When you don’t show up as who you are people cannot relate to you, because you are not relating well to yourself. Often we need to give ourselves permission to be just ourselves, with our own likes and dislikes, our own opinions. Before others can hear your voice, you have to hear it and value it yourself.

Self Confidence is built on the foundation of self acceptance and self compassion. Yes we can learn from others, but your uniqueness is your gift to the world. No one is perfect but we are all perfectly ourselves.

9. Take Personal Responsibility and make a decision 

The journey to a more fulfilling career or meaningful life starts by acknowledging that no one else is responsible for your happiness. The buck starts here!

Sometimes we simply have to make a decision to be happier, to instigate change, to draw a line in the sand and say enough. I made that liberating decision in the autumn of 2000. Back then, I would have loved to have known the Paulo Coelho quote ‘at the moment of commitment the Universe conspires to assist you.’ Over the last fifteen years I’ve seen ample evidence to know this is true.

10. Dreams do come true 

There’s a lump in my throat as I write this one. Fifteen years ago I wasn’t able to imagine that my working life would be as meaningful and as fulfilling as it is. All I knew was that some change was trying to take place, I paid attention to what my gut instincts were telling me and I made a leap of faith. I couldn’t see the end from the beginning but I could see the first step.

When you find a job you love, follow your passion or your bliss, do the work you were born to do, discover your purpose, or live your best life (whatever phrase resonates) that doesn’t mean everything is a bed of roses. Life continues to throw curve balls (I’ve gotten better at ducking them and throwing them back!) But I know for sure that dreams do come true, when you are brave enough to dream them, believe in them and follow them.

Today, in October 2015, I’m blessed to be able to say that my work is an extension of who am I, it’s not just something I do. I can’t envisage a time when I won’t be coaching, training, writing or speaking, for the simple reason I’m having too much fun. It’s not work and that’s why the old adage of ‘finding a job you love and you’ll never have to work another day in your life’ is accurate. 

Author: James Sweetman is a motivational speaker and executive coach focusing on leadership, presentation skills and personal development. He is also the author of five books. More information is available at www.jamessweetman.com