7 Practices for Aligning with Your Right Livelihood

Having grown up watching TV, images from shows I’ve seen often come up for me as metaphors for life. One that has been showing up in my mind’s eye for many years is the prairie town in Wisconsin where author Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose work inspired the television series Little House on the Prairie, grew up. The town was scant, with a schoolhouse, a mercantile area, and a few other buildings where services were provided by the town doctor or maybe the tinker.

That image has served as a symbol for where I’ve sensed the world of work headed. I have long felt that we will be going backward a bit to recapture the essence of work, with each person clearly filling a need in the community. As we shift from competition as the operating system of life and work to one of cooperation, a small society makes it easier to see how each person adds to the whole. That image of the small, simple town mirrors what I see happening to work today. We are being forced, some by economics and some by our own spiritual evolution, to seek our unique contribution to the world. We are ready to get back to giving our unique offering to make the world work better and to support our lives. That is what dharma is.

There are many bumper-sticker-type slogans out there urging you to “live your bliss.” You’ve heard them: “Do what you love and the money will follow.” “Live your passion!" "Live your purpose!" I think there is truth in those statements, but the pain these platitudes cause people tells me there has to be more to it. I know of so many people who suffer or have anxiety over not having found the one thing that is their passion—that which will make them happy and make them money.

I don’t believe there is only one form that your right livelihood, passion, or purpose must take. There are many ways that it can be expressed. What has become clear to me after years of working with people so that they may recognize their purpose and right work is that it is not a matter of one project, passion, or job; rather, it is a way of being, a talent, a unique attribute you have that cannot be repeated by anyone, because no one else can be you. And that quality or strength expressed through you can fit into a myriad of job descriptions.

Ultimately, it is not what you do that will make you happy but how you feel when you are doing it. Who it allows you to be is the secret to the joy.

Chances are, there is a theme that has followed you throughout your life and through different jobs. Until it is discovered, named, and brought into your awareness, it will never register with you as being important. When you identify it, name it, and see how it has always been a part of you, you will have confirmation that you are supposed to amplify that part of yourself and allow it to be the criterion for your choice of work. The part that matters is that the fullest expression of you be made accessible to you. It is then that you will experience the joy that fosters prosperity. You will be contributing what you were built to contribute. So I’d change the motto “Do what you love, and the money will follow” to “The money will follow when you work with love.”

You don’t have to know what you love to do to do that. You just have to become the person you’ve always wanted to be right where you are and watch how your work will transform. You will make different choices. You will be given different opportunities. You may leave your current work or you’ll be released from it and be free to pursue avenues where you can be who you want to be. Just be who you truly are through your work, no matter what it is, and you will be living in the vibration that attracts the most money to you. Use what you are blessed with and the world gets to benefit-it’s a prosperity-making formula.

I know what your inner critic is probably saying: “Yeah, that’s nice, but I still hate my job.” Or you may be thinking, “If I don’t stay here, how do I pay my mortgage?” There are certainly mitigating factors and concrete realities to negotiate. Nonetheless, a state of worry and anxiety caused by any circumstance is not the most conducive to sustainable prosperity. And yet, any new venture or temporary lapse in income is nerve-wracking and anxiety producing. A catch-22. What to do?

Mostly, that negative cycle is the result of being trained to think that losing a job is a tragedy and that attempting something new is asking for failure. Neither has to be true, but we are so deeply conditioned to accept those common notions that we don’t even try, once again shutting off the source of prosperity. People who get rich when they face these scenarios do so because they understand they are stepping into a plan for their greatest prosperity without waiting for the circumstances to show that they are right before they even start out. Prosperity does not grow from doubt: it grows from certainty before you even see results.

To Align with Your Right Livelihood

  • What do you know in your heart you are supposed to be doing with your life? However large or small of a stretch it might be, just write it down. (It’s okay, you don’t have to show anyone just yet.)
  • Alternatively, write down the dream you once had but did not pursue. Explore in writing if it is still applicable to who you are today, and if so, why.
  • If that dream no longer works for you, explore the possibility that it might just be a metaphor for something that could be expressed through your work now. Also, explore if the real reason behind wanting to pursue that dream reflects who you want to be in the world. If so, that is the piece to fold into your life moving forward.
  • Start immediately being more of who you are, despite the pressure your job description causes to the contrary.
  • Practice the discipline of "right livelihood" in your attitude and choices daily.
  • Sketch out an action plan showing how you could move further into your right livelihood over the next year.

Excerpted from The Prosperity Plan: Ten Steps to Beating the Odds and Creating Extraordinary Wealth (and Happiness), with permission from the the Penguin Group. penguin.com

Laura Berman Fortgang is a pioneer in the personal coaching field, with more than 20 years of experience supporting people to find meaning, purpose, and satisfaction in their lives.

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