My wife, Sally, and I were recently discussing one of our employees and she commented, “She’s made for this.” What a powerfully evocative expression.
Think of the people you know. How many would you characterize as doing something for which they were made? Hold that thought for a moment, we’ll come back to it.
Just over a year ago, Sally left her job as a manager with a local health system. I sometimes hear people ask her how she is enjoying “retirement.” The question always strikes me as odd. She’s as busy as I’ve ever seen her but no longer receives a check from an organization buying blocks of her time as an employee.
For over 25 years, she pursued her vocation as a nurse. First, taking care of patients on a med/surg unit. Then, she shifted into obstetrics to deliver babies and take care of new moms. Along the way, she had the opportunity to take on leadership roles as a charge nurse, patient care coordinator, and then a manager. Her last nursing role was as a manager with responsibility for the OB surgical suites on a very busy OB unit.
In every phase of her career as a nurse, she was very effective, very engaged, and very fulfilled. The roles suited her and each one fit where she was and who she was at the time. I never really thought about it along the way, but it is pretty easy to see as I look back. She was made for every one of those roles.
Until, that is, the time when the role no longer fit her life, interests, needs, or aspirations. Mapping those inflection points retrospectively seems really easy. Things changed, she shifted, and life went on. Now, she is living a life with new responsibilities, opportunities, challenges, and demands. She is totally made for it.
Not long ago, a friend of ours was wrestling with a feeling that she needed to return to work. Having been out of the “workforce” for many years as she worked as a mom, wife, daughter, sister, neighbor, volunteer, and many other functions in and around her home, she wondered if she should return to a job “outside the home” and get back on someone’s payroll.
When I asked her why she was considering returning, she described a sense of guilt around feeling productive and needing to “contribute” more. Now that her kids were grown, the busyness of managing their lives had subsided and she felt unproductive.
My response? “Don’t underestimate the importance of your role as Matriarch as your grown children transition, your parents age, your siblings shift through new life challenges, your husband moves toward “retirement,” and the world around you requires your wisdom, skills, and availability in new ways.” My inner thought? You’re made for this.
Of course, that is not to say that she couldn’t be or do many of those things while she held an outside job. I just wanted to remind her of the tremendous value of her role as it was and as it would evolve. After covering our needs for survival, the game changes radically with maturity and the world presents new opportunities and new demands beyond just the financial.
Returning to my earlier question, how many people do you know who you would characterize as being made for what they are doing? I actually know many who I would characterize in that fashion. They are the people who seem to fit where they are, move fluidly in their lives, and have some semblance of serenity in their professional and personal roles. This doesn’t mean there are no challenges or that everything is easy nor that they’ll be in that place perpetually.
Curiously, we seem to be made for many things and they shift with the seasons of our lives. As we move along, we fit in certain places for a while and then it becomes time to shift gears. We often get confused by our notions of “career” or what we perceive society expects we should be doing. Sometimes we’re gifted with the moments in which we are “made for this” and then comes the time when we’re made for something else. Progress comes when we evolve and move with the shifting currents. Life is not static.
What are you “made for” right now? Whatever season of life you currently occupy, it has its own rhythm and you are resonating or not resonating with it to some degree. As employers, we sometimes find the right people but put them in the wrong seats. Sometimes we miss on both counts. As individuals, we find ourselves in a perpetually evolving world where we sometimes feel like we fit and at other times feel out of place. That is exactly how it is supposed to be.
As much as we want a playbook or roadmap with explicit instructions, we still find ourselves wondering, doubting, worrying, and discerning. We want the control of the known and the safety of knowing where the pitfalls lie but that is not the nature of our life in this world. The game continues to change, and though some of the rules are absolute, there is still a vast open space on the board where we can move freely.
Today, think about how those closest to you would characterize what you are made for. Perhaps ask them the question directly. Then, ask yourself honestly what you think you are made for in this stage of your life. If what you are doing every day doesn’t align with those thoughts, it’s time to spend some time discerning where you are and where you should be. If you find yourself rationalizing or making excuses as it relates to the question, then step back and consider what that means.
Some of us wait too long, endure more than is necessary, or miss the subtle shifts in our world calling us to change. For others, we may tend to jump too quickly, not let things play out, or become impatient when we have to push through persistent difficulties.
That’s ok. Your right answer is not absolute and your playbook must necessarily be fluid. We are made for many things. We are gifted with many opportunities. We are pushed in many directions. The seasons will change and we will need to change with them. You are made for this.