Working in Alignment

This is a story about transformation. It’s about how you can transform from a creative person to a creative professional by working in alignment with reality, instead of working against reality. Working in alignment means choosing to work consciously, playfully, and responsibly; in a way that honors the true nature of reality and provides real value for others. Working (and living) in alignment with reality feels great, it allows you to reach your highest creative potential, and makes it practically effortless to enjoy a life full of abundance. Alignment can be difficult, so we will look at the hows and whys of misalignment and talk about how to resolve it.

Discovering Misalignment

Misalignment just means choosing to do some kind of work that isn’t conscious, playful, responsible, or doesn’t provide value to others. It often boils down to a gut feeling so trust your intuition on this, you might be right. How do you tell if you’re working in a way that’s out of alignment?

You might already know what you need to be doing or not doing and are reading this article as a distraction. If so, take a minute to take a mental note of that, or even write down what you’ve noticed. This could help you later when I show you how to write a life purpose statement.

Here are a few things that might indicate misalignment:

  • Anxiety and stress about work
  • Not enjoying your work
  • Not living up to your own self-defined creative potential
  • Working a lot but feeling like you’re getting nowhere
  • Feeling that your input/value is under appreciated
  • Doing lots unnecessary/redundant work
  • Making excuses, procrastinating or easily distracted from work
  • Doing work that isn’t actually providing real value
  • Feeling unusually exhausted by work
  • Unsure what the purpose of the work is
  • Feeling that you should be paid more for your work

Many people have had these signs in their life for years, not realizing that they could do different work or take a more aligned approach that would be more fun, more fulfilling, and provide something useful to other people.

If you’re reading this and nodding in agreement, are you ready to try a different way? Working in a way that’s aligned with reality is hard, but not nearly as hard as working out of alignment. Long-term your best best is to get on board with alignment as quickly as you can. By definition working out of alignment is harder, because we spend a lot of energy trying to pretend the world is different than it is.

The best way to uncover misalignment is to evaluate your own beliefs about what work should mean or what providing real value to others means. Take a minute to think about what you’re most passionate about, what you care about most in the world, what values you hold most dearly. Then take a look at your actions, behaviors, and see if there’s anything you’re doing that doesn’t somehow serve those beliefs. I’ve provided an example here from when I was working through these issues. Make your own chart, and see what you can discover!

Beliefs, Values, Passions, InterestsBehaviors That Don’t Align with Beliefs, Values, Passions, and Interests
I care deeply about making the world a better place, reducing suffering for as many people as possibleMy job is a dead end and I can’t see this leading to a place where I’ll have a large impact
I want to have an impact, solve real problems that need to be fixedI continue to do low-value work that I’m not even interested in doing
I want to be respected and valued by my community, I want to provide value in a way that makes other people happyI keep getting talked into doing work that doesn’t benefit anyone – I can’t see how this job is necessary to anyone
I want the freedom of self-employment and to feel in charge of my creative outputI can’t become self-employed with the skills I currently have
I want financial abundance and the ability to enjoy my life outside of work

Establish Your Purpose

Establishing your life purpose makes finding alignment easy. Most people have never defined their life purpose, and therefore when potentially life-changing opportunities come their way they are not prepared to make a sound decision and choose badly. A person with a life purpose is empowered to clearly see when they are working in alignment, and when they aren’t.

I have observed that a life directed to an aim is in general better, richer, and healthier than an aimless one, and that it is better to go forwards with the stream of time than backwards against it.

Carl Jung, Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche

When you have a clearly-defined purpose, even if it’s subject to change later, you can use it to orient yourself when you’re forced to make really tough calls. I have said no to jobs and business opportunities that on the surface seemed really great, because they didn’t align with my life purpose. I was once offered a full-time managing position at a tutoring center in Austin, TX – a place that I had been working at part-time for years. The salary and benefits would have been great, and I could easily do the work, but it wasn’t aligned with my purpose. For me it would have been a dead-end, working long hours at a job that wasn’t getting me any closer to my dream of self-employment, and the hours spent doing paperwork and grading math assignments would have prevented me having maximal impact on the world. Because I had my life purpose clearly established before I was offered this position, it was easy to say no and I have no regrets about the decision.

Try to write a purpose statement for your life that captures what alignment means to you. Companies write their purpose statements before doing business to ensure alignment – and how much more valuable is your life? Is your life worth more than the life of a company? Wouldn’t it be wise to determine what values and principles should guide your life to optimal happiness and fulfillment? Have you ever spent time determining the purpose and values most important to your own work life?

If you don’t have a plan, you’ll become part of someone else’s plan.

Terence McKenna, author/philosopher

Basically all you need to do to discover your life purpose is spend about 20 minutes writing a bunch of different versions of your purpose statement until you find the perfect one. A purpose statement is a sentence or two that sums up your most important values and describes the reason you are doing business. Aim towards creating different versions of your statement of purpose until you write a version that sounds right. How do you know it sounds right? You’ll know you’ve found your life purpose statement when the sentence you’ve written make you want to cry. There’s an immediate emotional connection to it as soon as it’s written on the page – you just know that if you live up to this your life will be optimally meaningful. Congratulations, you’ve found your life purpose :).

I update my purpose statement every couple of years, as eventually it doesn’t resonate as much as when I first write it. Here’s my purpose statement as it currently stands:

I choose to live as a conscious creator and act in service to reduce suffering and optimize happiness for all beings. I promise to help others realize their deepest sense of self, their best version, and to always choose love and compassion.

I’ve taken this life purpose exercise from Steve Pavlina’s article “How to Find Your Life Purpose in 20 Minutes,” linked here.

Take Ownership

You’ll notice that in my definition of aligned work I said “choosing” to do work, so you need to understand your ownership or choice in the direction of your life. Taking ownership means deciding to exert your will in areas of your life that were previously left to chance or fate. Deciding to exert your will doesn’t mean you’ll be successful, but you actively participate in a struggle towards a life of purpose.

You have to be ready to take responsibility for your work, and see that the work you do really is a choice. No one else decides what kind of work you’re going to do, unless you let them. No one else decides your value, unless you let them. Letting someone else choose the work you do (being an employee) is a choice and you made that choice. Letting someone else determine when and where you work is a choice you made. Settling for low wages is a choice you made. Doing low value work for someone that doesn’t appreciate your real talents is a choice you made. If you’re doing creative work it might be more obvious that it’s a choice but people still forget this and believe some external force is making them choose a certain way. Until you’re ready to take ownership of your own choices about work, you’ll be stuck in scarcity and misalignment.

Ownership is taking back control that we had given up, realizing that it was our choices all along, and that we have the power to make different decisions any time we like. Ownership is really a mindset. It’s the mindset that says your life isn’t all just happening to you passively, but that you’re participating and always choosing. Ultimately, ownership is finding out just how much impact your own choices have on the trajectory of your life.

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

Getty Lee (Rush, Freewill)

A crucial component to working in alignment with reality is ownership. On a deep level you have to recognize your own power to create, your own worth, your own value – you have to realize at the intuitive level that you’re already powerfully creating a certain version of reality – and then consciously choose to create in alignment with your purpose and values.

Intuition – Trust your Feelings

Mostly what it takes to get back into alignment is to start trusting your feelings: you can tell you’re aligned in your work if and only if you listen to your intuition about this. Some people call this listening to your heart, but what you have to do is look deep inside and find out wheat’s real and what’s right for you. Trust yourself. Intuition is often ignored because it often tells us things that we can’t prove and have no rational reason to believe – nevertheless, intuition is a powerful ally for sensing misalignment.

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.

Albert Einstein

Try to read between the logical lines, so to speak, and look at your life from an intuitive/feeling perspective. A mantra that came to me once in a deep meditation and stuck with me was “stop trying to create a life that makes sense. Create a life that feels right.” I think this points to the truth that our rational minds have a limit; and where rationality fails, intuition picks up and carries on. Your intuition is much better at making big life decisions than rational thought could ever be.

Meditate, think deeply, and get in touch with what is truly important in your life. What is your gut trying to tell you? What are your fears and anxieties trying to tell you? What the real problem in your work life that all the little occurrences of stress and friction seem to be revolving around? What signals have you been ignoring lately that might need to be revisited?

There might be work you’re doing that doesn’t fit in, the pieces don’t quite fit together, or it doesn’t have a clear purpose. Maybe the work seems to make logical sense on the surface level, but something about it is still bothering you. When you think about that work, strong emotional feelings arise – anxiety, frustration, confusion, hopelessness. Recognize that those emotions are telling you that you’re out of alignment, and be thankful that you found out sooner rather than later! If you’ve made it this far into the article, you’re probably already using your intuition to guide you through the writing prompts and meditation process.

Have Fun!

Aligned work is fun – it’s a joy to create, explore, express, and produce when we are working in alignment. Look for fun opportunities. Look for jobs, projects, creations that inspire you and make you want to stretch yourself to new levels.

Many people were brought up to believe that work had to be hard and difficult, and therefore haven’t even considered that aligned work could be tremendously fun. This idea that work shouldn’t be fun, in my opinion is just stupid. There are so many opportunities, so many problems that need fixing, so much work that could be done – as conscious creators we can choose work that is engaging and suits our values.

In a way we are reclaiming our minds, sorting out bad ideas put in our heads by people who want to make us into mindless workers, and establishing new, more aligned ideas about what the purpose of our work is. This is tremendously fun and rewarding to do! Some of my greatest business successes have been from choosing projects that would be fun and rewarding for me. Often in my life when I choose fun over profit, I end up making lots of money anyways. Something about the fun and excitement of an aligned project spurs new ideas, new avenues, new possibilities, and this ultimately leads to more value being generated. People can also sense I’m having fun with the work I’m doing, which inspires them to get involved more deeply. The fun seems to radiate outward and attract other people who are similarly aligned.

Learn to Say “No”

Start saying no to projects and jobs that aren’t fun, are dead ends, or are leading you in a direction you don’t want to go. Then with all your free time, start saying yes and actively looking for projects that align with your purpose and values. As a conscious creator I have to say no to projects all the time. Learning to say no to work that doesn’t inspire you or isn’t aligned with your purpose is a tremendously powerful tool, and can free up your time and energy to do things you’re more excited about. So don’t feel bad about saying no if the work your being offered isn’t in alignment with your values and purpose. Just move on and do something more fun instead!

The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.

Warren Buffet (Forbes Interview, 2019)

Saying no can be challenging, especially to people are perceived as authorities or people who we care deeply about. In my experience, the real reason that saying no is a challenge, especially when it’s a great offer, is the fear of missing out on a great opportunity. The key to saying no is to recognize when an offer or opportunity is out of alignment with your life purpose. If you want creative freedom and someone offers you a high-paying data entry job, well the pay is nice but you’re sacrificing creative freedom. Is that a sacrifice you’re wiling to make? If you’re really certain of your purpose and values, it gets way easier to say no to things that don’t align.

Sometimes we are too afraid to deliver the big “no” that we know we need to. A great strategy for this is to recognize the fear, write down the “no” we want to deliver, and then set it aside for the time being. Until you can work up the courage to deliver that “no,” work on saying no to smaller things that aren’t as big of a deal. Say no to a free sample at the grocery store, say no to the guy who wants to wash your windshield at the traffic light, and start building your ability saying no on small scales. Strengthen yourself incrementally to the point where you can say no to bigger, more important things. Eventually you’ll be impenetrable, no one will be able to get you to do anything that isn’t aligned for you.