Livelihood: Going Beyond the Known

Livelihood: Going Beyond the Known

Seagull taking a cracker from a human hand

Learning to see your livelihood: going beyond the known is important. This gull has found sustenance in an unexpected place. Image by George Erws.

Livelihood: Going Beyond the Known

In January, we offered three principles to help you decide what work to choose to sustain yourself.* This post tells you that when it comes to livelihood, you can safely go beyond the known. We told you what to pay attention to, and what to ignore. We got some great, deep comments. One of them inspires this post.** I’ve highlighted what I want most to address:

I’ve spent a long time developing a set of skills that are useful to social movements, and have found work that offers a livelihood in exchange, and how fortunate am I!! And also still struggle sometimes because #3: Niche + Gifts Still = Choices. Not just choices within my niche but in how to incorporate more explicitly the paints in the palette that are my spiritual growth, which don’t immediately/obviously relate to the substance of my work. The question I’ve been asking myself is how does my own path to liberation allow me to help others get free?

Niche + Gifts Still = Choices

This equation (in the quote above) is from our January post giving the three principles; this is principle 3: even if you think you know your gifts and your livelihood niche, you still have choices to make. (To see what I personally do with all that choice, see the original post.)

The Paints in the Palette

This reference in the quote above is also to the original post–paints in the palette being your gifts. There are many paints in your palette. As you grow (and age–let me remind you that aging is a kind of growing), you’ll have more. Probably way more than you can figure out how to use in your livelihood even if you live to 150 as I plan to do.

Even More Paints Than You Realize

The thing that fascinates me about the part of the quote I’ve highlighted is that as you grow, you develop spiritual gifts. You have even more paints in your livelihood palette than you realize.

You have these paints. They may look totally unrelated to your work niche, your chosen livelihood. But they’re not.

Who Decides What Relates to the Substance of Your Work?

So where did your ideas about your work come from? That’s right, you inherited them. From whom? From where? Explore those settings in your mind. Did spiritual gifts enter those settings at all? Unless you wanted explicitly to enter a religious profession, chances are you got the message that your spiritual gifts were unrelated to the rest of your work.

What an unholy mess. We work in field after field, farmers and professors and all, and we think what we offer is unrelated to the spiritual. But as the questioner wisely points out, there is a connection between our path to [spiritual] liberation and helping others get free. Our (spiritual) lives are connected to others’ (spiritual) lives.

There is no disconnect between our spiritual lives and the rest of our lives. There is no “rest of our lives.” Work is one powerful way we learn to see that. It is ok to cultivate our spiritual gifts as part of livelihood: going beyond the known.


*That post was in response to a reader’s question; thank you, Chris! Note to all readers: a post-inspiring question earns the questioner a free half-hour of coaching. So ask away! Ask in the comments, or send me questions here.

**Thank you, Beth! What fascinated me about your question may not be what compels you. Nonetheless, the game I’ve created here means welcome to a free half-hour of coaching!

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