When Working Corporate Serves Your Purpose

working corporate

“Start where you are. Distant fields always look greener, but opportunity lies right where you are. Take advantage of every opportunity of service.”— Robert Collier

I was flying back to Melbourne from Thailand after a week scuba diving in the Similan Islands, staring out the window at the star-studded sky, I knew for the first time in a long time what I wanted— freedom.

I was in the midst of a career crisis and was shaken by the nagging feeling that I didn’t want to work in financial planning anymore after years of studying and working hard on my career. For months I had tried to figure out what else I was going to do but kept coming up blank, until I discovered this yearning in my heart to take time out for a while, to explore my passion for scuba diving, and to travel around Southeast Asia.

I quit my job and contracted for a while before packing up my life and flying to Thailand to complete my Divemaster course as the starting point to my twelve-month sabbatical. During that time out, I hoped that I would find the answer to my career crisis.

I quickly found a new way of life: I traded heels for flip-flops and bare feet; suits for wetsuits; driving a car for riding a motorbike; meetings and schedules for the freedom of following my intuition; the Monday to Friday 9 to 5 routine for what felt like Friday everyday.

I discovered my great love for the earth and a way of living that felt free and expansive to my soul.

After travelling around Southeast Asia, I returned to Phuket to visit friends on my way to India. Instead I met my Italian love and completed my scuba instructor course and stayed in Phuket. I still hadn’t decided what to do with my life other than to live in a way that felt so free to my spirit – in Thailand, with my love, near the sea, diving often.

When the year was over and tourist low season began, I returned to Melbourne to work for my former employer for 6 months so I could feed my bank account then go back to Thailand to dive and be with my love. I did this for three years.

After spending so much time outdoors and in the sea, returning to corporate office life was a shock to my system. Once upon a time, I loved being part of a management team — organising, leading, in the thick of decision-making — now it felt profit driven and void of meaning.

In the office I felt constrained and disliked working to someone else’s set hours that didn’t match my flow. I hated corporate attire and having to look a certain way that felt foreign to the free spirit I was inside.

I spent most lunch hours at the nearby gardens surrounded by trees, feeling the earth support my body, the sun kiss my skin and watching the clouds float in the sky. I stopped catching the train and walked the four kilometres to and from work — it made me feel energized and peaceful and it became addictive.

I loved walking so much that when I followed my love to Italy one summer, I decided to walk 120 kilometres of the ancient Via Francigena pilgrimage route through Tuscany before I met up with him in his hometown. And when I was eventually made redundant from my employer, instead of getting another job, I decided to go and live my dream and walk that whole pilgrimage route from the beginning in Canterbury, England to the end 2,000 kilometres later in Saint Peter’s Square, Rome.

There were times when I was really hard on myself for returning to corporate life. I felt like I had failed because I hadn’t found my purpose and my happy-ever-after and was returning to the old life I thought I was leaving behind. Eventually, I realised that I hadn’t failed and that it was actually a blessing.

Returning to corporate life has been a critical part of how I have found my way. It has enabled me to earn a living to support my exploration and dreams. It was because I returned to corporate that I discovered exactly how critical nature is to nurturing my spirit and that I loved walking.

If I had not started walking to work to feed my spirit I might never have walked that small section of the Via Francigena to discover that I wanted to walk the whole trail one day.

If I had not been made redundant, perhaps I would never have walked the whole Via Francigena to discover that I wanted to walk from Rome to Jerusalem, my next pilgrimage that I am planning now.

When I finally stopped resisting the work that I was doing, when I could look at my life with a higher perspective, as if I were an eagle circling high above, I could also see how my presence, and sharing my stories and experiences has helped to inspire and transform those around me.

Purpose is not just about a job or career. Purpose is about how we live. The problem is we so often think it is about what we are doing rather than who we are being.

Our purpose is expressed through us as a quality, maybe it is love or joy or kindness. We bring that quality to whatever we do so that activity is an expression of who we are — that is purpose in action.

I believe that each of us has a unique message that we have come here to embody and express in this lifetime but there are many ways we can do that and in many settings. Whilst ultimately your long-term career might not be within corporate, know that right here and now it is serving your purpose, that you are meeting people that need your essence, that it is bringing you opportunities to practice your message and the intricacies of relationship with different people whilst also bringing you money to support you in your life and enable you to take your next step.

If you viewed your work from these perspectives, how might this change how you feel about your work right now? And how might it change the essence and attitude that you bring to your work?

Photo by Magdalena Roeseler

working corporate

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10 thoughts on “When Working Corporate Serves Your Purpose”

  1. “The problem is we so often think it is about what we are doing rather than who we are being.”~ Love that; so true. Even though I realize what you are saying about returning to the corporate position you had gave you clarity as to what you really wanted to do with your life, I think there was a shortcut to this realization that you didn’t take. But, you ended up on the same path, as you would have if you had taken a shorter route. I love how Australians term what we, in the U.S., call being layed-off, or fired, ‘becoming redundant’; such a more apt and descriptive term for the action. I enjoyed your story.

    1. Thanks Chas. Well we do use the term fired but that’s usually when you haven’t been performing or have done something wrong I.e individual from the role. Redundancy is when employers remove the role from the organisation structure. maybe there was a shortcut but if I’d taken it I may not have had all the wonderful experiences I have had. As they say, All roads lead to Rome.

  2. Wow Kym! How awesome your journey has been and promises to be. I just love that walking is your blissful way. So seemingly simple, yet totally inspiring when you talk of walking from Canterbury, England to St. Peter’s Square, Rome Italy.

    I loved this: “Purpose is not just about a job or career. Purpose is about how we live. The problem is we so often think it is about what we are doing rather than who we are being.

    Our purpose is expressed through us as a quality, maybe it is love or joy or kindness. We bring that quality to whatever we do so that activity is an expression of who we are — that is purpose in action.”

    I take the perspective, when I am engaged in work that might pay the bills, but not tap into my soul, as a gift because it serves to take care of me….for now and helping me continue doing work I love.

    Loved your post, and the journey you took me on as I read.

    1. Thanks Jul’s. I think that’s such a great attitude to take. Sometimes our work serves us and others in way we don’t always see when we’re in the thick of it.

      And yes the walking can be blissful but as I learned it’s also quite painful – hard on the feet, knees, hips to walk so far day after day carrying 13 kilos but it is worth it and so I’m off again in September :)

  3. Kym – I really appreciated this post today. I have been working in the nonprofit sector for about 3 years now and despite a love for working with youth, I couldn’t stand working for a nonprofit anymore. I lacked support from management, worked really hard for a tiny paycheck, was mistreated and so forth. I have yet to find my way of making money but I have been loving creating my own schedule – waking up early, drinking my coffee, and getting to work on my blog. At some point in the afternoon I go for a run. And then in the evening I spend time with friends or family. When I was working at my nonprofit job, I was so exhausted at the end of the day that I didn’t want to socialize with the people that were so important to me. So while my work was meaningful, the environment I was working in was totally unhealthy. Now I’m working to find a gig that involves me writing and having flexibility in my schedule. Again, thanks for you post.

    1. Hi Kristi

      You sound so happy the way you are living now. I totally get that…when I quit my serious career job I took a couple of months out and did a similar thing. It was the best and worst thing I ever did…my life slowed down and I savoured everything…slow mornings, coffees, walks along the beach, time spent at my local book store…I found it hard to go back to work after that but I did – it was just a 6 month contract before I left on my sabbatical.

      I am so glad for you that you took that step to leave. Sounds like you would have ended up sick if you had stayed in that environment.

      I hope you find your meaningful work in a healthy and supportive work environment.

      with love and courage
      Kym

  4. Great post. I agree that we bring our qualities to whatever we are doing – a great perspective to keep in mind. Fascinating about the pilgrimages. I understand the appeal, and it is partially from the challenge and difficulty of the experience that you grow and come to know yourself better. It sounds like you also learned and grew from going back to corporate, so it was a worthwhile experience.

  5. Hello Kym!
    This is a truly inspiring article. It is true that we often find our true selves in the places we are ‘supposed’ to be. Thank you for sharing your journey so that others can discover their purpose as well.

    I especially appreciated the paragraph: “I believe that each of us has a unique message that we have come here to embody and express in this lifetime but there are many ways we can do that and in many settings. Whilst ultimately your long-term career might not be within corporate, know that right here and now it is serving your purpose, that you are meeting people that need your essence, that it is bringing you opportunities to practice your message and the intricacies of relationship with different people whilst also bringing you money to support you in your life and enable you to take your next step.”

  6. Hi Kym,

    Great article. I myself went through a similar experience and ended up travelling South East Asia (can’t wait to get back :) )

    I think the mistake many make is narrowing choices to an either / or option. Either we work in corporate or we don’t. It doesn’t have to be either / or though. It is about what works. I think you captured this when you said”Purpose is about how we live”.

    When we identify with one way or the other we close off doors. When we decide the kind of life we want to live, instead of getting bogged down with what labels we use, everything else just becomes opportunities along the way to make it happen.

  7. Hey Kym, love this article – it really addresses the guilt that those of use who crave freedom often feel. Western society is not set up for freedom and flow and once we realise what we want for our life does not align with the society we’re in, we can feel like “sell-outs” for returning to the world, as though we’re selling our souls. I believe like most things in life it is about perspective. If you can see the corporate – or whatever job you’d rather not be doing – as an aid to the life you want to create, it can relieve some of the angst. I was made redundant in 2009 and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I didn’t go travelling but I did take time off and I got experience in the field I wanted to move into. I’ve been working as a contractor for 5 years now – part time as that gave me the balance between income and freedom, however I’m not feeling restricted again so I’m looking at what actions I need to take to get back to feeling free again. Thanks for sharing your experience. :)

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