CREATING A SATISFYING CAREER: How To Reclaim Your Mojo Through the Strength of Authenticity

When my daughters were planning their careers, I referred them to a quote from American philosopher and civil rights leader, Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask instead, what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs is for you to come alive.”
There lies within every person a place where, when connected to it, we feel deeply and intensely alive. When we are in this place, there is a quiet voice inside that says, “This is the real me.” Where we lose all track of time. Where we don’t tire or need anyone to motivate us. In that place we are calm, creative, compassionate, committed, and capable. We’re accountable because we know that what we are doing matters and makes a difference. This is the place you find your mojo.
When we discover this place of authenticity in our work, it is called a vocation. When our life’s calling lies outside of our paid work, we call it an avocation. Both have validity and energy.
As leaders committed to creating authentic workplaces where people are engaged, loyal, committed, and accountable, we can help people discover their “real me.” Start by asking:
  • What makes you come alive?
  • What matters to you?
  • What is your own personal why, and how is this organization supporting you to realize that why?
  • How can we together create a place where you love to work?
  • What do we need from each other to take care of each other?
One of the primary barriers to finding our authentic voice is the reactive structuring of our lives. Allowing our to-do lists and the demands in our inbox to drive our activities ensures that the expectations of others will crowd out authentic discovery and expression. Combine this with the noise of a distracted world and you’ll eventually realize, in the light of time’s perspective, the vital task we’ve pushed aside – the task of leading a life aligned with our heart.
As we emerge from a summer of rest and fresh perspectives, there is an opportunity to reset the compass of our lives, develop a new structure for staying on track with our authenticity, and recreating a workplace aligned with our true nature.
Here are a few actions to consider:
  • Set aside time to ask the questions (outlined above) of yourself. You must be intentional and deliberate about discovering your authenticity. You can’t leave it to chance.
  • Shift from the list/reactive method to a boundaried focused approach to your work. While you may have parts of your day checking off your to-do list and responding to the expectations of others, block out time each day for uninterrupted focus on what truly is important to you and to those you love and serve.
  • Assess your mental fitness plan. Many of us have a physical fitness plan, but few have a strategy and accountability plan for strengthening our mental fitness.
  • Create a community of support and inspiration. Whether in the form of guides, coaches, confidants, or accountability partners, we all need to know we aren’t alone. Authenticity is a lonely journey, and it can’t be done alone.


“The key to living well in a high tech world is to spend much less time using technology.” 
Cal Newport, author of Digital Minimalism 
Christopher Robin is a delightful 2018 Marc Forster film, starring Ewan McGregor. The story follows an adult Christopher Robin who had, years earlier, left behind his childhood friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, and with them, his imagination and source of inspiration. Lost in the demands of his work, Christopher finds himself disconnected from his family and from what matters most in his life. Strained and alone, he finds himself strangely reunited with his old stuffed bear friend, Winnie-the-Pooh, who innocently reawakens his imagination, sense of wonder, and playfulness. It turns out that going back to the Hundred Acre Wood wasn’t just good for his soul and his loved ones as they reconnected with the new found essence of their father and husband. Reconnecting with his authentic self allowed him to bring his vast untapped creative forces to his work that eventually provided a great service to his company and the world. His companions from the Hundred Acre Wood opened the door to his destiny.
I identify with this story. Like Christopher Robin, I have had my own periods of growing apart from the life I’m meant to live. I know well what it’s like to drift from my sources of inspiration, lost in the demands of others. At such times I wrestle with self-doubt and denial of my capacity to make a real difference in the world, settling for what others expect from me rather than staying connected to a deeper, more sustaining voice from within.
Years ago, I came across a quote that has been a source of inspiration for me over the years. It’s from Demian, by Herman Hesse, and reads, “each man had only one genuine vocation – to find the way to himself… His task was to discover his own destiny  – not an arbitrary one – and to live it out wholly and resolutely within himself. Everything else was only a would-be existence, an attempt at evasion, a flight back to the ideals of the masses, conformity and fear of one’s own inwardness.” 
For those committed to living a life of “genuine vocation”, I offer five strategies.
  1. Give yourself permission. A participant from my upcoming “Other Everest” retreat wrote to me about why he decided to sign up. “I’m at a time and space in my life,” he said, “where I want to do an ‘authentic’ dive into who I am, what makes me tick, and how am I adding value to the world. It’s time for me to begin my transformational journey.”
  2. Rethink social media. I see more and more people becoming progressively distracted and exhausted by our attachment to the world of social media. I’m also finding increasingly validated research that is substantiating the neurological, psychological, and societal impact of social media as an addictive activity. While there is no doubt it holds some entertainment value, some convenience as a source of communicating information, and some increased market exposure value, I’m no longer so convinced that the benefits outweigh the costs. I am currently wrestling with this matter, questioning the use of social media in my work and my life, and considering quitting it all together.
  3. Resist Compliance. Carl Jung said that disobedience is the first step toward consciousness. We are not here to fear or please those in authority and should realize that there is meaning and value in our acts of disobedience – not disobedience for its own sake, but as a fuller expression of our own unique humanity and purpose in the service of the greater good. The fact that we are resisting conformity may be a sign that we have begun to live our own lives. It’s about giving yourself permission to choose adventure over safety.
  4. S-l-o-w d-o-w-n and pause. Choosing a deeper, more substantive side of ourselves over superficiality requires giving ourselves time and space to think independently and to value the inward journey. Learning to be comfortable with the pause and the silence opens the door to authentic change. It’s an old and ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we’ve lost our way. On a regular basis I find it vital to stop and ask myself questions like: “What nourishes me?” “What fulfills me?” “Whose voices am I paying attention to?”
  5. Stay connected to what’s real. The challenge of authenticity is to sustain our humanity when everything around us is being automated. Authenticity values direct experience over electronic or virtual experience. It means staying connected to the natural world, to human beings, to the entire spectrum that life has to offer. While institutions are built for consistency, efficiency and certainty, authenticity relies on variability, vulnerability, and surprise. Focus on the things that really matter, including spending more undivided time without distractions and with friends and family, enjoying the good things in life.
What are your practices for staying close to your own “Hundred Acre Wood?” How do you ensure that you maintain contact with an inner guiding compass and create enough stillness and playfulness in your life that you can hear the voice of authenticity?