“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”
For the majority of my 26 years, I’ve had a goal. In elementary school and middle school, I focused on kicking ass in English, Math, History and getting good grades all around. In high school, I dreamt about college and bolstering my application with extracurriculars and leadership experience. In college, I dedicated myself to growing and learning, as well as securing internship after internship to hopefully land me a job soon after graduation.
But now, as I approach my fourth year in post-grad land, I’m left with a feeling of unease. For years, these goals were my beacon. I couldn’t lose my way because the only option was to move toward the light. Without it, I’m left in the dark, where any direction could be the right one and I’m too crippled with indecision to start walking.
To be at my best, I need a goal.
Despite the self-starter, overachieving identity I’ve held since childhood, I’m truly struggling to find my next step. I know I want to feel fulfilled in my job, I want to make a difference with my work. I want to learn and grow and be challenged. I want to feel inspired and creative. I just cannot figure out how to use what I have to get there.
So I did something out of my comfort zone. Something a little crazy.
I hired a career coach.
(It feels very strange to even write that, but in the same way it feels strange to introduce someone as your boyfriend for a while.)
It just so happens that a friend of a friend recently completed her coaching certification, and after a quick email exchange and a very generous offer, I gleefully set a date on my calendar. She sent over a few exercises to spur my thinking and help us make the most of our conversation.
On my first call, we talked through a concept I hold dear: Focusing energy on the things you WANT instead of the things you don’t. It’s certainly not easy for me to get out of my own head, especially when I’m feeling stuck or frustrated. I tend to ruminate, so this exercise of literally circling the feelings I want to experience was a process so simple I never thought to try it.
One of the exercises she asked me to look over before our call included a list of adjectives. “Circle 5-7 you most identify with,” she said. As it turns out, that wasn’t as simple as it sounds.
These 7 words popped out at me:
Let’s break those down, shall we?
I should note that 10 years ago, heck even 3 years ago, I never would have guessed that PLAYFUL would make it to my list. After years of desperately willing myself to be #bubbly, I’m coming to accept that I am, in many ways, quite the opposite. I’m trying to unlearn the desire to punish and suppress the intensity, passion, and thirst for knowledge woman are taught to shun. I think 26-year-old-me sees “playful” as synonymous with joyful and unencumbered. It’s a term often pulled into yoga practices. It’s about loving yourself fully and not taking things too seriously. Which is tough as a naturally serious person, so I think it’s especially important that I chose this word to challenge me in the months and years to come. It’s a reminder to myself: Don’t forget joy.
As a deeply reflective person, I loved this exercise. It was an interesting twist on my expectation – drawing focus to the feelings I’d like to experience in my career & life instead of the next step in my process. Perhaps to find my way forward, I had to create a goal independent of a specific job.
In a crazy twist, Marissa pulled a tarot card before our second call. She asked if she could share it with me, and what she read left me speechless and nearly in tears.
Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.
Soul on fire is an exhilarating state. It’s impulsive. It’s catchy. It is the one tunnel-vision-option that lies ahead of you that’s exactly right and perfect for you. It’s obsessive and thrilling and it’s always filled with warm energy.
What are you looking at when you see your tomorrow? Does it reverberate excitement? Is there fire energy there?
If there isn’t, you may be running after empty substitutes for your dream. It’s time to find true passion and zest for life. It’s time to be thrilled about life itself…and about the journey you are on. This deep spiritual bliss is the root of your happiness. Have you been nurturing it enough lately?
Are you working to acquire things, or spending too much time focusing on the material earnings of your work? Are you focusing on the numbers in your bank account instead of numbers of happy beats in your heart? What are you running after, and does it set your soul on fire?
It’s time to find a north for your future that blurs the lines between happiness and work. Yes, this is possible. The funny thing is that this doesn’t always mean a reboot in your career or finding a dream job that you love. Sometimes it’s shifting your mindset, or actively finding out that your dream is alive-and-kicking in the work you already have.
Yes. In what you already have. You can find your fire energy now, and then scale everything else up as you tweak your situation to fit your expansive dream. This is the opposite of containing your dream in a life that’s too small.
When you make the decision to expand your life this way, the shift can happen quickly. Souls ablaze are magnetic and have a way of making huge changes in short spurts.
Actively seek to nourish your soul, and work toward cultivating excitement and passion with fierce determination.
Where to Go From Here
I’m not sure if I’d call it fate/chance/coincidence/etc, but it struck a chord. At John Carroll University, this “soul on fire” theme was thrown around constantly and with the unfettered optimism only students on the cusp of the world understand. It was an unspoken mantra during the four years I spent there, particularly on my trips to Immokalee, Florida and Zaragoza, El Salvador. It brought me close to a year or two of service after graduation in lieu of a job. So imagine my surprise when Marissa read those words back to me. I realized “soul on fire” had drifted away from my consciousness as I settled in to the day-to-day grind of post-grad life.
So while I may not know exactly where to go next, I know the feeling I am pursuing. I know how I want to feel, in my current job and in the future. And for now, that is a great place to start.