Drive. Align. Shift. Spirit Driving Institute Blog by Leila Johnson

7May/14Off

Coming Full Circle

The Universe's interpretation of my request to make a professional change has come full circle. I continue to be intrigued by this journey.

One of my quiet prayers has been to use more of my writing and business analyst skills. (Thankfully, my louder prayers were largely ignored!) Over the past couple weeks, I have secured two long-term contracts that allow me to use both. The first one seemingly fell out of the sky by my being in the right place at the right time. It will allow me to provide technical editing services for a federal government project. The second one was the result of a quick, but thoughtful, e-mail response to a position posting. It will allow me to provide business analyst services for a quality assurance company.

When I initially started my business, I primarily provided writing services. Over the years, writing has always been a part of my work either behind-the-scenes within the business or formally when working with clients. I realize now that no matter what work I'm doing, I get my "fire", so to speak, from writing. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to use my skills and challenge myself. My goal was to do something new instead of trying to rehash anything from my prior professional paths. I believe that these new professional opportunities have allowed me to accomplished just that while coming full circle.

Sorry for being so cryptic and not naming companies, but I prefer to keep this confidential for now. I'll start working with these clients later this month and will post updates periodically.

So, my lesson for all of you is to keep the faith, stay happy, live in victory, and help others do the same. If you ever need a pick-me-up when your prayers seem to be taking a long time to be answered, try listening to Pharrell Williams' "Happy". I can't get through it without smiling!

20Sep/11Off

An Assessment for Career Fulfillment

When it comes to your career, it's easy to take one of two Career Advancement Options:

  1. Go through your career blindly, taking whatever comes your way
  2. Overanalyze your career until you find the perfect fit

Career Advancement Option #1 means that you fly by the seat of your pants. While this can be freeing, it means that you aren't in the driver's seat taking control of your career.

Career Advancement Option #2 means that you are working so hard to find the right career, you aren't trusting that the Universe will present you with appropriate career options.

The most difficult one is the yet-to-be-mentioned Career Advancement Option #3. It is a middle-of-the-road and often underused option. Option #3 allows you to Drive with Purpose: find a career that is meaningful and make changes as needed to fit your changing personal, professional, and spiritual goals in life.

After going through a few different careers myself (biomedical sciences, high finance, insurance, and now information technology), I know what I'm talking about when it comes to those three options. I have adopted (and continue to adopt) all three at different points in my life.

  • I fall into Career Advancement Option #1 when I am fed up with what is going on and think that my efforts won't make a difference.
  • Career Advancement Option #2 becomes a reality if I feel absolutely certain of what I should be doing and want to orchestrate it for myself.
  • Career Advancement Option #3, although requiring more effort, brings the most career fulfillment for me and does the best job of meeting my personal, professional, and spiritual needs.

Our human needs can best be described via Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The lower level needs are the more basic ones that need to be satisfied first:

  1. Physiological Needs
  2. Security Needs
  3. Social Needs
  4. Esteem Needs
  5. Self-actualizing Needs

Career advancement would most likely fall in Level 4 or 5. In a nutshell, if you haven't eaten, you aren't too worried about personal growth activities!

Until now, I hadn't seen a similar model for assessing our career needs. I came across an article called "Beyond Wall Street and Sand Hill Road: Career Fulfillment for Bright Young Things" by Don Fornes, Founder & CEO, Software Advice. He has a nice breakdown called "A Hierarchy of Career Fulfillment". The article is geared toward young adults entering high finance. I encourage you to read it even if you're in a different industry since it contains some key insights on why we do the work that we do (i.e. it isn't (and shouldn't be) just about money.)

A pyramid showing 6 questions about career fulfillment

A Hierarchy of Career Fulfillment. Created by Don Fornes, Founder & CEO, Software Advice.

Are you able to answer "yes" to all of these questions about your career? If not, which ones are a "no" for you? Are there other questions that you would include? Or maybe you would place the questions in a different order.

Remember that you won't always be able to answer "yes" to all of these questions. Even if you have a "dream job", there will be days when you wonder what you got yourself into! That isn't always a reason to bail, however. Look at your current situation as a whole. Only you can decide what you need to feel fulfilled.

Try using this model to make it easier to adopt Career Advancement Option #3 allowing you to Drive with Purpose and find a career that is meaningful.

11Sep/11Off

What September 11th Means to Me

On this 10th anniversary of September 11th, I am struck by many things. Today I'll talk about my personal reflections. I can't believe what a different life I lead now. And I can't believe how that event indirectly shaped my career path and personal life.

Please know that I always feel weird telling this story because it seems trivial in light of the tragedies that happened. Yet, it is something that I feel compelled to share. I hope this inspires you to find the many more powerful, inspirational stories that can help you make sense of the day.

A little over ten years ago, I was working at a mutual fund company in Denver whose headquarters was in the World Trade Center. I worked for the quality assurance team in their call center. I wasn't entirely happy with my job and wanted something different. After researching the different opportunities that were available in the company, I settled on applying to become a call center trainer. It looked like a fun job to me and I knew I had the qualifications.

On that Monday, September 10th, I turned in my job application to the local Human Resources Department and felt confident about the possibilities. Then, Tuesday rolled around. Of course, the office was chaotic. We were preparing for an onslaught of phone calls from shareholders wondering what was happening with their money. Instead, the call center was eerily silent. We were all glued to the televisions as we wondered what was happening to our fellow employees in the North Tower. Somehow all of our co-workers made it out of the building before it fell. Our bosses told our department to stay home the rest of the week because there really wasn't anything for us to do.

So, there I was at home staying glued to the television with my fear of leaving the house increasing every minute. My boyfriend at the time used to travel around the country as a corporate trainer for a different company. He was supposed to fly out to St. Louis on September 11th. But the training class was changed, so he flew out the day before. Since air traffic was grounded for over a week, he wasn't able to fly home as planned at the end of that week. It was strange being at home by myself all that time without being able to share this experience with him. That weekend, he rented a car and drove over 12 hours to make it home.

Things at work somewhat settled down after several weeks. It was around that time that I saw an announcement about the new trainers that were selected for the call center trainer positions. My name was not on the list. Being the overachiever that I am, I decided to check in with HR to find out why I wasn't selected and why I didn't even get the chance to interview. The HR associate looked through her paperwork and found that she didn't even have my job application on file. She asked when I turned it in. I told her it was on September 10th. She paused and then apologized saying that it must have gotten lost in all of the chaos.

I was upset, but after reflecting on things, I realized that this must have happened for a reason. It was also at that time that my boyfriend and I felt like we shouldn't waste time in our lives. We had been talking about getting married. Once he got back that weekend, our talks started to become more of a reality. We were married the following year and are still going strong. We also talked about what we really wanted to do career-wise and began to take steps toward becoming entrepreneurs. That became a reality in 2003.

Now that I look at my life as an a stay-at-home mom, wife, entrepreneur, and author, I can see several events that helped to get me where I am today. I am so thankful for my life.

On this anniversary, I was glued to the TV again, but this time watching the memorial events. As I listened to the stories of families and friends affected by the tragedies, I am reminded of many things:

The "stresses" in my life that really aren't that stressful

How quickly your life and the world can change

How important it is not to waste time on trivial things, but focus on your dreams and how you can achieve them

The importance of family and friends during the happy and sad times

I hope that my story can help you find a glimmer of hope and positivity today to help you move forward in your life.

19Mar/10Off

Switching Careers is Common and Normal

I came across a Job Bank site the other day that stated that "Most Americans switch careers three times in a lifetime". I can't vouch for this site, but still found the statistic interesting. It goes on to list the average number of years people spend in certain professions. I started wondering why this was the case.

I've already met my quota of three careers. How about you? What is it that makes switching careers so common? It's easy to say that maybe people are just unhappy with their current jobs. But, I think it's deeper than that.

Our Personality changes based on our experiences, the people we meet, the relationships we have, and the information we receive from the Universe via our Spirit. We are just curious by nature. There's no way for us to know everything there is to experience in the world unless we try it.

I can remember being a freshman in college and the first question that people would ask each other was "What's your major?". It was a defining factor similar to the way people ask each other, "What do you do?" once they are already a part of the workforce. During freshman orientation, my advisor was meeting with a group of us and discussing what to expect out of college life. He asked each of us what our major was. We went around and said our major - everything from business administration to biochemistry.

The last girl in the group said that she was undecided. You could almost hear a pin drop. Then the advisor chimed in and said that she's better hurry up and pick a major because it's more difficult going through college without one. Mind you, this was our second day!

I've never understood all of the pressure that is placed on college students to know what they want to be "when they grow up". After all, they haven't experienced much of life or the real world. How would they know?

It would be nice if there could be an exploratory year after high school. Like a year-long, paid job shadowing where you could try out a different career each month. It would be even better if we could do this periodically throughout our careers. Until that happens, we have to settle for exploring different careers based on how our Spirit guides us.

23Feb/10Off

Destiny Versus Free Will: in LOST and Your Profession

LOST: Jack and Jacob

Episode 5x16/17: A scene playing with destiny vs. free will

I watched my favorite show tonight, LOST. For those of you who aren't "Losties", I'll spare you every detail of the show. It would be waaaaay too long for a blog post anyway. What I do want to mention is an important theme on the show: destiny vs. free will.

It's a theme that we all battle with in real life, especially with our professions. Is there something we're supposed to be doing? Or are we supposed to just meander through life doing different things that we enjoy? To take it even further, is some outside force guiding us in one direction or another?

I like to think it's a little bit of all three. We all have some Mission, it's up to us to figure out the best way to express it. We are all good at something. Some of us have a natural talent and others have to work to perfect our craft.

Your Mission is not about knowing the exact profession you're supposed to have. It's about discovering different ways to express it throughout your life. Each LOST character has something that they naturally do even when they tried their hardest to change. Jack likes to fix people. Kate likes to run away. Sawyer likes to con. Hurley likes to be the peacemaker. And so on and so on.

I naturally fall into teaching mode in just about everything I do. It's fun for me to learn a lot about something so that I can teach others. I've taught others about science, writing, customer service, software, getting into college, starting a business, and now spirituality.

Here's the funny thing. I used to be very shy. Public speaking terrified me until I was in my early 20's. Still, I had a passion for teaching. I've known since I was 5 that I wanted to teach something. Teaching all of these topics have been fun and helped me to perfect my craft.

Look back on all of the jobs and careers you've had. Don't just focus on the industry or your job title. Think about the specific tasks that you naturally gravitated toward. These tasks can give you a hint about your Mission.

So, I'm not sure where LOST will end up on the destiny vs. free will debate. There is some truth in both sides. What side do you believe is true?

20Feb/10Off

Slippery Slope of Choosing to Be Happy

We've all heard it before from other self-help gurus. They suggest you just change your outlook, choose to be happy, and everything else will fall into place. I disagree with that.

The problem with just putting on a happy face is that sometimes you're deluding yourself. You're pretending that everything is fine. And worse, you're pretending that you like your life the way that it is. What about applying that theory to your career?

A recent study showed that 55% of Americans are unhappy with their careers. I know, I know. You can't believe every statistic you read. But even if the number were only 15%, it makes you wonder why people are unhappy and how long they've been that way. I have a poll on my site called "How do you feel about your job or business?". The majority of those who have responded would fall into that 55%.

Have you tried to tell yourself or someone else to just have a positive outlook on their career even if they dislike it? It works for a little bit, but it isn't a permanent feeling. If you spend at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week on the job, it's hard to pretend to be happy for that long.

Choosing to be happy in your career might work in specific situations: a meeting you don't want to attend, a report you don't want to write, a presentation you don't want to give. It's not a good idea to pretend that you are happy with all aspects of your career if it truly doesn't fit where you want to be in your life. Instead, use the energy you're spending trying to be happy to plan what you want to change.