From Ideals and Beliefs to Making Loving Work Choices

by Victoria Lister, Brisbane, Australia

In the last couple of months I’ve been exploring the option of setting aside my role as a self-employed consultant to return to regular employment, and have been looking at various jobs. My work had slowed down over the last six months and I was starting to feel the next step would need to be a practical one, to bring in more income.

I’ve changed jobs – and careers – many times before, but I’ve never brought to the process the kind of honesty I’m bringing to it now. In fact I’ve used this time to reflect on my working life as a whole, a chapter of which I’ve already written about in Celebrity Chef or Self-loving Chef:Where is the Love in the Work that We Do?.

For example, as explored in that article, I’ve only just realised I have never, ever taken on a work-related role because I knew it would sustain or nourish me, physically, emotionally, financially or personally. Instead, I’d start or swap careers and jobs for any other reason but, such as:

–          career progression/ambition,

–          professional development/prestige,

–          out of a misplaced sense of responsibility,

–          to satisfy an immediate need for cash,

–          because it was close to home or suited my schedule,

–          because I thought I needed something in a hurry,

–          because it matched my ‘values’ more than the last role,

–          because someone else thought it would be a good idea,

–          out of curiosity,

–          for the thrill of the challenge,

–          because I was asked to help, or

–          combinations thereof.

Again, as described in the article on my work as a chef, these poor choices would eventually take their toll on my health. In fact a recent role, one I now see I undertook for several of these reasons, resulted in years of what was little more than abuse and a subsequent physical backlash. This has shown me that although I have done much to raise my self-awareness, there are still areas I’ve yet to shine a light on: the ‘hidden drivers’ fuelling my work choices have been particularly tricky to grasp, perhaps because work has always been something I’ve had a really big investment in.

I had an interview with an organisation just the other day. Before the day rolled around, I (thankfully) identified a belief lurking behind my interest in this particular role: I had a very distorted notion that on some level I was there to ‘save’ the organisation. Having called it out, I looked forward to simply attending the interview in order to understand if the role and organisation would be suitable for me, rather than trying to ‘sell’ or shoehorn myself into a job or a place that didn’t feel right. Reading the excellent article Love, Quality and Integrity at Work beforehand really helped with this process.

The good news was, having no attachment to the outcome meant the interview was easy. Having done my research on the role in days prior and on the day of, I barely thought about it. When it came to the interview, there was work to be done in the minutes beforehand in developing responses to reasonably complex questions, but I found I was able to move through them systematically; come answer-time, I was fluid and confident in my responses.

Later, I reflected on what I learned when given the opportunity to ask questions of my own, and from other clues I’d picked up on before and during the interview. I found that it confirmed the feelings I’d had prior to attending: it wasn’t right for me at this time. In fact, it would in many ways have been a direct re-run of roles I’d chosen before, with no thought for myself. So although it was very attractive to me in terms of what my mind wanted, in my heart I knew if I accepted this job I would be starting yet another cycle of self-abuse, and my health – already vulnerable at this time, would have taken another beating. So even though I don’t yet know the outcome of the interview, I have already decided not to take the job if offered. This has been a big shift for me.

At the same time, I have begun to realise that my own small business is worthy of appreciation. I had been mentally running it down, simply because it hasn’t been ‘performing’. But what if things had simply lulled in order to allow me to address my health issues, to give me time to reflect and heal? What if it is in fact a wonderful reflection of me, of my creativity in business and in general? That it contains within it a special quality that I can then share with others? Fully appreciating that my business is an expression of me feels like a lovely confirmation of both me and the business, for in truth they are one and the same. In other words, it has been me that I’ve not been whole-heartedly appreciating.

Over the time all of this has been unfolding, I have received several calls; three from new clients with viable prospects of work, and one offering an almost unheard of opportunity to work in a collaborative and potentially very supportive partnership, which I’d initially failed to appreciate in my rush to apply for the big, exciting job. Now I can feel how supportive this opportunity is, and how choosing to stay with myself – and the business that is a wonderful expression of me – will allow me to work at a pace that sustains and nourishes me.

Nourish is a word I’ve never thought to apply to work. Yet if the time comes once more when I do need to reconsider my options, I will really question my motives and make sure my next choice is a self-loving and nourishing one – not the product of a bunch of ideals and beliefs that have little to do with the real me.

72 thoughts on “From Ideals and Beliefs to Making Loving Work Choices

  1. This is a superb bog, Victoria, and shows us all the many ways we allow ourselves to be led astray when it comes to choosing our work. I particularly loved your realisation that work choices are to be ‘self-loving and nourishing ones – not the product of a bunch of ideals and beliefs that have little to do with the real me.’ Food for thought for us all in that!

  2. Great what you have expressed here Victoria and so many of us would never have heeded our own true feelings when it comes to WORK. A great reflection and I particularly like the list of ‘reasons’ why we take work on. Lots for me to ponder here. Thank you

  3. Thanks for sharing Victoria. I am in almost the same place, and I found your blog wonderfully supportive, inspiring and confirming.

  4. Thank you Victoria, I love that your article and the experiences and realisations you’ve shared would also be very relevant to those much younger than work age. For example, choosing the subjects to study at school – and consequently the area of further education that a young person may go into.

    How often have we heard that a subject is taken to satisfy a parent’s need, or that it’s thought it will provide a secure/well paying job at the end of the course, or that everyone else tells you you are really good at the subject so you’re convinced that must be what you’re to do.

    1. Great point rosannabianchini and if young people approached their choices in education like this then they are much more likely to carry this on into their working lives.

  5. It’s funny, isn’t it, that something we spend so much of our time doing is something we don’t spend much of our time truly (as in honestly) reflecting on! Except perhaps in terms of complaining about what’s not right, or plotting our next career move… So why isn’t work something we consider as deeply as other areas of our lives? Do we just see it as a means to an end?

    1. Good question Victoria. Until the past year or so for me it has been a means to an end. But now I am appreciating more what I bring and have recognised the awesome service I provide in claiming this.

  6. I love this Victoria, it touched me deeply, particularly where you mention “At the same time, I have begun to realise that my own small business is worthy of appreciation”. and, where you say “But what if things had simply lulled in order to allow me to address my health issues, to give me time to reflect and heal?” – this has inspired me to reconnect to the amazingness of what I offer at work, and that I too can take my own self care deeper within this, particularly in appreciating me.

    Working at a pace that sustains and nourishes is a wonder-full opportunity. Thank you.

    1. Thank you Jane. I’m just starting to appreciate just what can happen once we get our minds out of the way and really focus on what is truly needed in terms of self-care.

    2. Awesome comment Jane, it inspires me to appreciate work on another level and it inspires me to ponder what work really means.

  7. Hi Victoria, I love this, what I got most out of your expression here is to nourish myself at work or to stop and look at whether that is even at all possible in my workplace. As I manage a workplace, I do know that we have begun to create a work environment that actually supports and nourishes not just myself but the whole team.

    We have had a student on placement for three months and she came into my office the other day to give some feedback. She said that she had been really observing me at work, as well as the whole team and that she has learnt a lot about taking care of herself and supporting herself at work. She gave me examples of how she had observed this practically. I was so appreciative of the feedback as obviously the value of consistently presenting and encouraging self care, nurturing and support at work is paying off.

    There is always room for development in this area, as another conversation yesterday with a staff member who was visibly stressed and feeling overwhelmed has left me looking at how I can support staff to express themselves earlier than they do when things become too much. A group of four of us are already coming together at work to look at this in a little more detail.

    1. That’s brilliant Sally, it sounds like you are really pioneering something here, both in your approach to management and the decision to form a working party to look at the issue of capturing staff concerns well before they go into overwhelm.

      Re the former, would it be possible to share some of the practical examples your intern observed? I’d be interested to know what she noticed.

  8. Hi Victoria, What a great reflection this blog is. I also used to swap careers and jobs a lot and for all sorts of different reasons – but never for knowing if it would sustain or nourish me, physically, emotionally, financially or personally. Thank you for this exposing truth.

  9. I really like this blog Victoria. It helped me to be totally clear that when considering a job, there are two things to weigh up: what do you bring to the job in terms of service, and what is needed and what is not for you in terms of where you are at. If you approach a job search from a need, these considerations are simply ignored.

  10. It has been great to read this article to see where I am looking to fill a need or if I have any investment in the outcome of a job role. It has also given me the opportunity to see that I have never seen a job as something that could nourish or sustain me, it has always been a need for money, recognition, excitement or even misery and abuse.

  11. You have presented some great things to look at when applying for new jobs. I haven’t thought about it this way, especially whether the job is nourishing or not. It’s a great thing to present on though, rather then just apply for them because they are a job…

  12. I love what you explore here Victoria and feel very inspired as I am in a similar situation like you were. And I can confirm that staying true to myself and nurturing me is a great approach although at times the drive and busyness comes in because I think I have to go for it more. It is lovely to read about your process and how it unfolded for you!

  13. I can absolutely relate to your list of reasons for job hopping and have been burnt by many of them never even contemplating making a choice that was self-loving or nourishing. I can only imagine a job taken in consideration of this would be a deeply healing one.

  14. Thank you Victoria for bringing an awareness to getting a job. The ideals and beliefs around work can hold us back from feeling what job is true for us. I know when I have used the need to be successful and earn money as a reason for taking a job it leaves me with an emptiness and a constant drive to be more. I now work in a supermarket and I am meeting people all day long and this is far more rewarding. There is a sense of completion at the end of the day that I never felt with the jobs that I took for monetary gain.

  15. Hi Victoria. Work is consistently separated out from our life and seen as a means to an end as you mentioned. I have lived with the comments ‘Don’t take your work home’, ‘Switch off when you walk out the door’, ‘It’s not your ‘real’ life’. Your blog has helped me consider that what is true is that ‘I’ am in service 24hrs a day and no matter what I am ‘doing’ in the moment I am bringing a quality to it. That consistent quality is ‘me’. This is to be ‘Nourished’. This feel so beautiful – nourishing me in all contexts. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I love your comment Ch1956, I remember saying that to myself too. It is so true that we are in service 24/7, there is no switching off when we bring joy into work, to have the consistent quality of bringing all of ‘me’ into work is something I am learning to connect to more and more. What an awesome reminder to be in service every moment of our day, everyday.

  16. Thank you Victoria for this powerful blog. For me it was very informative because I am a person who is working now for 17 years at the same place and job. I was not aware about all the ideals and believes around a job – so if I would change my job I would definitely read your blog again!

  17. Thank you Victoria for sharing your working experience, I am not in the workforce now but can appreciate your choice to choose work that is self loving and nourishing. This certainly applies to everything in life.

  18. Victoria, your writings are really inspiring me and asking me to consider what and how I approach work. It’s something I’ve really invested in and there are many ideals at play, a particularly strong one for me is being overly responsible and more recently seeing how easy it is for me to get distracted and pulled into too many things, all the while not seeing that all of this is coming from a need to fit in, to be needed. Funnily when I approach it from more of an appreciation of me then it’s different, I see myself as an equal party to all that is around me and am less inclined to play games, and can just be me, it’s so much more fun and freer for everyone, me and others.

  19. Victoria what an excellent change in approach to work. I can relate to many of the reasons you put forward for seeking particular positions in the past, as this was my experience too – and added to that my tendency to remain in a position when clearly it was time to move on because it felt secure. I have finally found a position that suits and supports me, and it came to me effortlessly. It is a joy working this way after years of trying to fit myself into roles that did not suit.

    1. I can relate to staying in jobs because of the comfort of the known when I had clearly outgrown the position. I am currently considering a career change next year and found this blog really helpful in challenging the ideals and beliefs I still have around work and the role I tend to play in it.

  20. In general, we spend so much time at work in connection with and in service to others, that work being nourishing is important. As you share, this can only occur if we choose our position with the correct intention.

    1. Yes, I agree Carmin. Through our work is another way we can express to the world who we are, we certainly do spend a lot of time at work so this is an major part of our life where we have the amazing opportunity to bring all of who we are to our workplace, therefore sharing our amazingness with people.

  21. Nourish is a word I’ve never thought to apply to work. I have to say Victoria, that nourish is not a word I would have thought to apply to work either, but I can see now how my connection with me and how much love I bring to my workplace is paramount to everything within my work environment, and I am actually nourishing myself with my own choice to be love in all that I do. Thank-you Victoria for bringing such a delightful word into the workplace, and back into my body, I can feel appreciation starting within me around what nourish is asking me to do.

  22. You’ve evoked a great and very needed discussion Victoria, and asked the questions to allow people to ponder on what their work life is about. Through reading your experience and revelations – I was feeling into how I am at work and why I am there. I can feel competition among employees for browny points from the boss and much comparison amongst us which I have a part in. Why am I still there, after 6 years? I feel like I want to save the company too and need to rescue all that work there! No wonder I’m exhausted at the end of my day. A great moment to reflect and go deeper as I prepare myself for the day ahead.

  23. It’s so interesting to consider that we have choices when it comes to work and one of them is to choose a job because it is nurturing. It was great to read your list of reasons why you chose jobs in the past, Victoria. I recognised more than a few. I would put fear of missing out in there too.

  24. I can very much relate to your reflection on work as I had been more of an accidental tourist when it comes to getting a job. I used to compare myself and feel less when I saw those who appeared to have obvious talents and/or a clear calling to engage in their chosen profession. It took me a while to understand that it was my emptiness that I was feeling and I was trying to use work to fill it up and that I was very reluctant to commit to being in the world, and changing a job wouldn’t bring me anything. I am understanding more that work is a way of expressing my essence, and without connecting to it, there’s no way for it to be expressed in a way that would feel natural and nourishing to me.

    1. I love your honesty Fumiyo. To be aware and sharing how you felt is deeply healing. Your comment is so relatable and open.

  25. Very timely, I loved reading this as I was going through my own work transitions and reflecting on where is most supportive for me to be at this present time and where can I best do the work that I love.

  26. In our jobs there is always a multitude of tasks and responsibilities that need to be completed purposefully and accurately in our day. This is the reality of work and is one of the many ways in which we have a responsibility to contribute to our society. But, I am realising more and more is that it is the quality and integrity that we bring to what we do and how we do our job that is indeed more valuable that what we actually do – its our personal touch so to speak. Great blog Victoria.

  27. Nourish is indeed a very beautiful word to apply in any job, as is cherish and deep deep care. The best preparation for any interview is to simply be yourself and although many people say this, I mean actually be deeply connected to yourself through a deep and genuine level of self-care and love.

    1. Absolutely Joshua, you go into the interview in the way you described and you have no expectations just the feeling of joy for being you.

  28. “Trying to sell’ or ‘Shoehorn ourselves’ into the roles that are not naturally us is a brilliant analogy to what the pressure of societies ideals, beliefs and expectations all try to make us do. Well said Victoria.

  29. Great sharing Victoria, we can often miss what is in front of us when we make choices that aren’t from love. It was great to read how it un- folded for you. Your garden just needed some fertilizer to realize the flowers were ready to bloom.

  30. You clearly have so much integrity Victoria!
    Knowing our intentions behind every decision is, what I would say, essential.
    Life is about learning and evolving, thereby making choices which nourish. This is a step in a really great direction.

  31. Thank you Victoria for sharing your honesty and openness to exploring the ideals and beliefs that have governed your choices of work in the past many of which I can relate to. It is lovely that in allowing yourself the time to deeply explore this opportunities have arisen that may well take you off in a different and more nourishing direction. Would love to have an update on how the last couple of years have unfolded for you.

  32. Thank-you Victoria for bringing to my awareness that there are many ways to nourish ourself apart from the food we choose to put into our body, for whatever and however we do things they have an effect in our bodies and of course this would also relate to our work choices and whether they were loving choices or choices that revolved around ideals and beliefs.

  33. Thank you Victoria for this wonderful blog. I am self-employed and from reading your blog it has inspired me to appreciate my business. Appreciating how I am with myself reflects in my work and other areas of my life. I am learning to work with love and integrity, being more connected to myself instead of being driven by performance, recognition and deadlines. I am also making more loving choices that supports and nourishes me.

  34. Thank you Victoria for a great blog, realising that what you offer in your own business is worth developing, and that you can support and nourish yourself within.

  35. Victoria reading this blog this morning this line stood out as a beautiful reminder for every choice we make in life ‘I will really question my motives and make sure my next choice is a self-loving and nourishing one – not the product of a bunch of ideals and beliefs that have little to do with the real me.’ Well said and living with this level of love and integrity invites us to make true choices.

  36. A great article Victoria, inspiring us to look at our work on a very different level, an aspect I had not considered before, and whether what we are choosing is truly nourishing and supportive.

  37. Having ideals and beliefs around work really cap us into taking on work as a means to an end, affecting our choices with what we have invested in for a particular outcome rather than appreciating what we can truly bring to our work that supports us and everyone else.

  38. Victoria this has been a great article to read as I am also reflecting upon my paid and unpaid work that I have had. The undercurrent why I have done what I have done. The reflection of what is on the inside reflects very much what transpires on the outside. As I have gotten clearer and truthful with myself, the opportunities appear out of the blue as it seems, for the next thing of work/study.

  39. Victoria, it’s amazing reading this to feel and understand that I’ve rarely looked at work or taken jobs which will nourish me – I’ve had many of the ideals and the prestige you’ve listed here and can see and feel that many still apply, and many have fallen away. I am much more gentle and tender with myself than I’ve been in the past and there’s been huge expansion in my expression at work and right now I’m feeling and seeing how I express at work and what is the purpose in what I’m doing, and most of all what quality do I bring. So a lot of learning but reading today I can feel another layer to be looked at underneath, this is great, thank you.

  40. “In other words, it has been me that I’ve not been whole-heartedly appreciating.” Beautiful observation Victoria. All you bring to all that you do will make it shine.

  41. An inspiring article Victoria….which invites us to look at work in a completely different light, and to feel when applying for a new position if it would be nourishing and supportive to our wellbeing.

  42. “The good news was, having no attachment to the outcome meant the interview was easy.” Expectations and attachments are killers – because we then are in the running for disappointment. I find it fascinating when I am not especially bothered about something working out, then it does! However if I am too attached to the outcome more difficulties can arise. I am learning to let go and surrender more and more….

  43. “Nourish is a word I’ve never thought to apply to work.” Thank you Victoria to introduce the word nourish to work as it is so very much needed there. What if nourishing oneself is the best medicine we can do for our bodies so that we are less ill and so we would have a lesser ammont of employee illnesses?

    1. This would be amazing Ester. Also very true that we don’t often associate the word ‘nourish’ with work, it is currently like polar opposites. Yet if we combine the two together, work will perhaps no longer be a chore or a dread for a majority but a fully joyful experience. Also, it is very rare to see people make work choices based on self-love and nourishment. So, what Victoria shares is setting a new example of how we can make work about self-love and not about self-gain.

  44. A great blog thank you Victoria, there is much for me to ponder on in your writing these words ring so true “I will really question my motives and make sure my next choice is a self-loving and nourishing one – not the product of a bunch of ideals and beliefs that have little to do with the real me.”

  45. Having no attachment to an outcome is very freeing so that we do not get caught up in a drive or allow tension to build up in our body in waiting for a result or outcome in our favour. When we know ourselves we are able to stand in a steadiness detached but observing and aware so there is an ease, confidence and natural flow in what we bring to anything we chose to do and this approach supports us and others in all areas of our life, even interviews!

  46. Over time I have also learnt that working in accordance to ideals and beliefs has been very restrictive, complicated work and sucked all the fun out of it. The more I appreciate myself and learn to feel what is true in my life and go with that, especially when it has come to interviews and reviewing my work, the lighter our relationship becomes. So many people hate work but is it really work we dislike or how we are taught and believe in how we approach it? We are the ones that shapes our relationship with the world and waiting or wanting work to change so that we feel better doesn’t work, the unease follows us because it’s in us to start with!

  47. Thank you Victoria, this is a very inspiring and powerful blog. Choosing to nourish and self-love for ourselves in all our choices is key to life, this will result in living with vitality, great health and joy. It is such an empowering way to live when we make choices that doesn’t not comprise who we are or our potential to evolve.

  48. It is gorgeous that you can share your experiences and lessons around work for people to contemplate the choices they make. I can only imagine that whilst it would be common for many to have succumbed to the list you provided… very few would look at work as an expression of them, let alone one that can nourish them. The world would look vastly different in the way people work if the latter was a way of being that was honoured and embraced in full and each step made with this as the foundation.

  49. I Like the attention you gave your job search or more in fact the attention you gave yourself during the process. This is something we do not learn, quite the opposite we learn ‘to fit’ and to sell ourselves to get the job. With your approach of listening to what felt right for you you not only honoured yourself but also the people you engaged with and the working position us such, as nothing was compromised by any need or expectation.

  50. I love this idea that what we do can nourish and sustain us – and that it can be everything from how we set up our home and space, to social activities, and to work.

  51. So much worthy of pondering here… Thank-you Victoria.
    Do we ever go to a job interview with the approach that we are equally ‘interviewing’ those that may hire us? Do we truly assess whether something is a right fit for us, or whether it has the potential to be so? Do we even hold back from bringing ourselves in full to a job (even when some potential challenges or difficulties have been detected) out of self-protection?
    And is it possible to honour ourselves in full through the process – ever-willing to learn and to let go of beliefs such as you’ve referred to that simply do not serve us (or anyone we may work for, including ourselves)?

  52. Essentially, all of this really boils down to matters of worth, and the way in which we value ourselves, doesn’t it Victoria… Unpacking those things that have bound us to a state of diminishment of who we truly are is vital, if we seek to establish a foundation of knowing and living in and by our own true worth.
    With every step taken in this, we see all the more clearly the steps that are there before us, and those which resonate with the knowing of our own worth within and thus ‘worthy’ of committing ourselves to in practical and temporal terms.

  53. Wise words Victoria thank you. Few of us consider ourselves, our value and self-worth when seeking work but it is vital to our wellbeing to do so. I also love your appreciation that the lull in your own business was not necessarily a negative thing but could have been presenting you with a very much needed opportunity to self-care.

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