Lately, I’ve been watching my former colleagues achieve amazing things in their careers. Things that I used to want: management over a large team, promotion to director, becoming a vice president.  

I promise I’m not jealous. In fact, I’m so thrilled for them. I knew them during the days when their careers weren’t so glamorous. I remember working together for hours on insanely stressful projects, traveling for business, and spending more time with each other than we did with our families.

There was a lot of uncertainty in those days. A lot of feeling underpaid and undervalued. So to see them excelling makes me so proud.

But there’s also part of me that’s sad. I’m sad because watching their stories develop reminds me about the life I chose to give up, even though that life wasn’t right for me.

I am creative, resourceful and optimistic. I learn new things easily; in fact, I become bored if I’m not being challenged to learn something new basically all. the. time. I knew being in corporate America didn’t allow me to use these natural gifts, but I used to want that life anyway.

Why do we do this? Why do we put ourselves in situations where we can’t use our natural gifts? Where we can’t bring our full selves to the work in front of us?

Recently, I read this article by Madisyn Taylor from DailyOm, where she gave some insight to this stance so many of us take.

“As human beings we often have a tendency to fight against using our natural gifts. Many stories of success start with an individual who is ignoring the call of his or her inborn abilities. There are many possible reasons for this resistance, from fear that the calling will be too difficult to a disbelief in the very work one is being asked to do. We may feel too small, too distracted by other people's ideas about what we should do, or too uninformed.”

Wow. Yes! So often, we absorb other people’s ideas of who we should be, what we should do. Too often we discredit our natural gifts. We fight them. We think that the work that involves our innate talents is too easy, so we ignore these gifts.

Then we wake up completely burned out. That’s what happened to me after eight years of chasing corporate success. No matter how badly I wanted to excel in that sphere, I couldn’t bring my whole self to the work I was doing, The dissonance was destroying me.  

So I walked away. It wasn’t easy, but it was right. I knew I needed to do work that allowed me to be myself, even if that meant embracing all the uncertainty and risk that comes with being an entrepreneur.

It’s not a cakewalk. There are still hard days full of struggling and searching. But I love how Taylor puts that struggle into perspective:  

“The first step on the journey to our calling in life is to listen to our internal voices and respond to the knocking universe at the door. As we do, the symptoms and anxieties that have haunted us will fade into the background, replaced by opportunities, both big and small, to open the door to what we are truly here to do.”

When it comes to finding work that’s meaningful to you, I believe the journey begins with taking a look at the path you’re on and being honest about why you’re on it.

And when you say yes to something, you say no to something else. It’s not possible to actually do ALL the things.

My recommendation? Stay focused on you. What you want. How far you’ve come.

Because what’s meaningful to others may not be meaningful to you. And they may not care about what’s meaningful to you.

Take this quiz to discover the Career Path that’s right for you. When it comes to finding your purpose at work, are you an Achiever, Giver, or Explorer? Find out here.