How to find your unique work in this world

Imagine waking up on Monday morning and being excited about your work. Imagine that your work is so engaging you lose track of time because you are in a state of flow. You work for a few hours and notice that your energizes you instead of draining you. Then at the end of the day you, a bit tired but you notice a deeper sense of satisfaction.

You are doing work that matters. You are making your greatest contribution to the world. Your work that helps humans thrive and flourish.

You love your work.

Deep down we all want this kind of work. Nobody aspires to be an invisible cog in some corporate machine. But many of us drift right into that.

Maybe you see that coming in your life. Or maybe you are worried that you will get stuck in your career. You want to pursue the the work you love, but you aren’t sure what choices to make now. How do you get there?

We know we are each uniquely designed by God. He has given us skills, gifts, passions, and dreams. We want to pursue the work that fits our uniqueness.

And we want to do this before it is too late. Before we lose the hope that it is possible. Before we settle into the boring routine of corporate America. Before the system rubs off what makes us unique.

The bad news is that system is working right now to make you like everyone else. The system wants to shape you into a cog to fit someone else’s machine. The shaping sounds something like this, “Don’t use any color on your resume.” “Wear this kind of shoe to the career fair.” “Wear your hair like this.” Don’t paint your nails these colors.” “At this company, we <fill in the blank>.” “Or we don’t <fill in the blank>.”

God made you for more than this. And it is not the industrial age anymore! You are not a human interchangeable part of the assembly line.

Most companies are still stuck in the industrial age mindset. They provide millions of white collar jobs that really just processing the next step in the machine. Read the binder. Follow the procedures, and I will tell you what to do next. Fill out the forms. Don’t improve it. Don’t think for yourself. Be on time. Be productive. And follow the system.

But it is not the industrial age anymore. We live in a connected economy.

You live in an unprecedented age to make your greatest contribution to the world. The world is connected like never before. You can share your gift with the world with a few clicks on your computer. You can create something and have it in front of thousands of people immediately. No factory needed. No micromanagement needed.

The greatest amount of wealth in the history of the world is flowing from person to person. As you add value to other people’s lives, some of that wealth will flow to you. As you add massive value to people’s lives, massive amounts may flow to you.

Some people in some parts of the world are in survival mode. They are not reading this. But you are. You are not in the survival group so don’t act like it. God has chosen you for something different. He gifted you with unique abilities and placed you in the middle of abundance.

You have a universe of possibilities before you. The real question is what are you going to do this opportunity?

Are you going to thrive and then help those in survival mode? Or are you going to live like you are in survival mode even though that is not the reality God has gifted to you?

I know that deep down, you want to do the work that God created you to do. You want to make your greatest contribution to the world. And you want to enjoy doing it.

You believe it is possible to find this uniquely satisfying work in the world. At least you really hope it is possible. You will not settle for mundane work for the rest of your life.

The big question is, “How do you discover the work that God uniquely created you to do? Where do you start?”

The answer is found in Ephesians 2:10. God will give the content here, and I will serve as your coach in how to walk through it. The verse says,

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Go ahead and read that again. Next, let’s do an exercise that will point you towards your unique work in this world.

1. Take a look at this verse and identity the main phrases. List the the major action phrases that are happening in this verse. Here is a hint: most people find four phrases, and the commas help.

2. Now take these action phrases in your list, and rearrange them into the order that they happen throughout all of time. Think really big picture here. What happened first, second, etc?

When I did this for the first time, I was startled by what happened first. It was not the order that I expected! I had never seen this in God’s word before.

So if you haven’t already, pause on reading this and do the simple steps of 1 and 2 above.

Now after you completed this exercise, keep reading. The truth revealed in this verse can be life changing. But you don’t just want to “know it,” you want to apply it. How next grapple with these next two questions.

3. How does the truth in this verse help you find the work that God designed you to do?

4. How does this apply to your current life direction or decisions? Does it give you any insight?

Answering these questions will uncover God’s plan for your unique work in this world. So spend as much time with these questions as needed.

And after you have done this four questions, I will unpack this verse for you as well. So only after you have discovered the answers for yourself, go and read my post Unpacking Ephesians 2:10.

Unpacking Ephesians 2:10

NOTE: This is part 2 of a two part blog. Be sure to read Part 1 How to find your unique work in this world before reading part 2.

Unpacking Ephesians 2:10

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

I found these four action phrases in the verse:

We are his workmanship.

Created in Christ Jesus.

God prepared good works beforehand.

We should walk in them.

Now if I rearrange them in chronological order through out time, I thought about it like this…

We are created in Christ Jesus first.

We are His workmanship.

We should walk in the good works He prepared.

So far so good. But there is one phrase left. God prepared good work beforehand.

Emphasis on “beforehand.” God prepared good works beforehand. Before what? Before He created us and made us His workmanship. So it is actually…

God prepared good works beforehand.

Then we are created in Christ Jesus.

Then He works on us and makes us His workmanship.

We walk in the good works He prepared.

I was startled by this the first time I did the exercise. My natural way of thinking is that God created me and then thought about what I could do in this world. That is not what this verse says.

Let’s imagine it together… Before God created you in Christ Jesus, he prepared good works for you.

Ephesians 1:3-4 helps us get a clearer picture of when things happened.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

We were chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world. So God prepared good works before that. Before the foundation of the world!

Before the foundation of the world, God looked forward into time. He looked into this year from wayyyyyy back. He looked into all the years of your life. And He envisioned certain good works to be done.

Because He wanted those works to be completed, He created a person to do them. You. He created you in Christ Jesus. He worked on you and made you His workmanship. In the original language, the word workmanship means something like “masterpiece.”

You. He made you His masterpiece to do the works that He dreamed up for you. And His hope is that you will walk in those works He created you for.

He did not create you and then think, what should I do with you. He dreamed up good works and then uniquely created you to do them.

Here is the key question, Would God design you to fit the work He envisioned for you? Or would He make you ill-fitted for the work?

I don’t believe God would envision the works and then create a person with a mismatched to do the work. I believe God envisioned the good works and then uniquely created a masterpiece to complete the works.

I believe He created you to uniquely fit the good works that He envisioned for you.

In short, your work in this world should fit your uniqueness!

I pray this truth from God gives you hope that you can find your unique work in this world and not settle as an interchangeable cog in some corporate machine. So many people are ill-fitted for the work they are doing. It does not match the way God made them. And they don’t know what do to.

So how do you find the work you were uniquely created to do? Where do you start?

By looking at yourself.

This is different from where we normally start. We normally start by looking at the opportunities around us. Then we pray asking God for guidance in those options. That ignores the order that God revealed to us in Ephesians 2:10.

What if we didn’t start by looking outward, what if we started by looking inward? Instead of starting by looking at the options in your world, start by looking at you.

Since God uniquely created you for certain work, look at your uniqueness for clues as to the work He envisioned for you.

Your God-given uniqueness is your guide. Your uniqueness is your compass. It will direct you to what fits and show you when you are off track.

It is egotistical to start with yourself? Not at all. It honors God the creator and maker of you.

So how well do you know yourself?

I bet there is still a lot to learn. Let’s start with three questions…

What skills and abilities has God given you?

What kind of activities put you in a state of flow?

What purposes in the world are you passionate about?

Of course there is a lot more to discover about your uniqueness, and I will certainly be providing more help and direction in this area. But these three questions are a great starting point.

There is no road map for to your unique work, because no one has been there before. God gives us a compass not a map.

When you answer these questions, you will get some direction for you compass.

Does your work fit your uniqueness?

I was 22 years old and had just landed the biggest software deal of my sales consulting career. The client signed the contract and would send over $7 million for the license fee. Yessssssss! Let’s celebrate!

But that night as I laid my head on the pillow, I thought “Is this all there is to life? I am moving boxes through warehouses and making lots of money (for my company)?” I had a glimpse of doing this for the rest of my life, and it did not satisfy.

That was the moment my “dream job” was not a fit for me anymore.

At least this was the moment I realized it.

This was totally surprising because I loved my work. I loved my job. I loved learning, meeting new people, understanding clients’ needs, and presenting software solutions. I loved traveling to new cities doing this. To land the big deal I was just talking about, I went to Holland and Germany to prepare and then presented the software in Belgium. My enjoyment of the day to day work actually obscured the fact that this work was lacking in a greater purpose for my life.

Not only was I traveling the world, I was making good money doing it. Just two years before I started this job, I was literally digging ditches for a landscape company. I also worked in the kitchen of Chick-fil-a. I went from digging ditches and frying chicken to traveling Europe selling fancy software. Of course I loved this job! The high compensation made it hard to consider anything different. I was super grateful for the job and did not know if there was anything better.

But at the same time, I was haunted at night by the question, “Is this all there is to life?”

Having no answer to this question led me into a dark season in my life. Very dark. Very broken.

And this brokenness led me to the person who heals our brokenness. Jesus. At 23, I became a follower of Jesus. He traded my misery for His joy. He traded my death for His life. He traded my busy meaningless life for His purpose in the world.

Now that I was a follower of Jesus, I had a greater purpose to pursue. Over the next 18 years, I pursued His unique purpose for my life. I found my purpose, clarified it, refined it and had a new “dream job” right in the center of this my unique purpose.

I was training college students and launching them to unreached nations with the good news of Jesus. We were seeing people turn and trust in Jesus. We were seeing God’s kingdom break into our city and the nations.

I felt this was the purpose God had created me for. So all was well, right?

Actually no. The purpose was great, but the day to day work was not a good fit for my uniqueness. But because I felt so strongly called to this purpose, it obscured the part of my work that was not a good fit.

And this led to a lot of pain for me and the people I worked with. Things got really messy and people got hurt.

Why? Because I was working outside of my unique design from God.

So the big question for each of us is, “How do I know if my job fits my God given uniqueness?”

My own job experiences and my coaching of 100+ people in their pursuit of their unique work in this world have both given me a great perspective on job fit. This has led me to The Four Factors of Job Fit.

We all want our work in this world to fit our God given uniqueness. The question is how do we know if a job fits? Can we go beyond a simple I think “it fits” or it feels like “it doesn’t fit”? As I saw in my first dream job, part of it fit really well, but it was lacking in purpose. Later in my life, I had a great match in purpose but a mismatch in daily activities.

Now let’s talk about the four factors of fit. It took me 20 years and a lot of mistakes to notice these. My years of pain and mistakes are my gift to you. You can learn these fit factors now and pursue work that truly fits you. You can save yourself years in your journey! You have the opportunity to find your unique work in this world much faster than I did.

You can use the four factors to understand if your current work fits your uniqueness. You can also use these four factors to evaluate future opportunities. This resource will give you insight into a job so you can decide to pursue it or not. So think ahead about different work you are interested in and see how it fits you.

Engagement.

How engaging is the day to day work? Does it fit your skills? Does it give you a sense of satisfaction? Do you enjoy the work?

The best fit here is when your work fits so well that you enter into a state of flow. You fully engage in the work. You feel at one with it. You are fully present. You are focused. Often time will slip by and you don’t even notice.

The worst fit here is often indicated with clock watching. We have all experienced the dreaded clock watching and thought, “How soon can I get out of here?”

Of course, no work is going to be all flow all the time. For my uniqueness, I get no satisfaction from expense reports and booking travel. But I have to do it. Others thrive on expense reports and think budgets are fun! But these people might never want to step foot on a stage and teach large groups of people for 40 minutes, while this type of teaching environment fully engages me, renews my energy, and fits my uniqueness.

Let us each pursue work that is engaging to our uniqueness most of the time.

Purpose.

Does your work have purpose? Does it make this world a better place?

Your work has purpose when it is aligned with God’s purpose to bless people and help them flourish. Some work helps people flourish. Other work hinders people from flourishing. Some companies make people healthier or others work against people’s health. Some work blesses people and helps them prosper. Other work enslaves people financially or limits their freedom in some way.

Another way your work can have great purpose is when connects with God’s purpose for the earth. God begins the Bible with a command for people to cultivate the earth and ends the Bible with people living in a beautiful garden city. He loves it when we partner with Him to improve our earth and make it more garden like. Some work cultivates and improves the earth and cities. Other work damages the earth and cities.

Does your work help people and the earth flourish or does it work against that purpose?

Then somewhere between helping people flourish and harming people is the mediocre work of stuff that just does not seem to matter. Trivialities.

Over lunch, I asked a friend about his recent job transition. He said that his previous job with the insurance company was to give people the smallest amount of money possible for their legitimate insurance claims in order to maximize profits for the company. The people he served were at a vulnerable place in life having just suffered a loss, sometimes a devastating loss. And his job required him to work against their flourishing. But now he is working full-time to lead people to love and serve an under-resourced neighborhood. This is a man who pursued purpose in his work and found it.

In my work now, I help people enjoy Jesus more. I am more passionate about this purpose than my first job of moving goods through the supply chain.

Here are some more examples of purpose that my friends are pursuing in their work: making cities a more beautiful place to live, making eco friendly mini solar power plants that fit in shipping containers for villages without power, helping young ladies learn kitchen skills to nourish themselves and their families well, making software easier to use to help people thrive in their work, and cultivating the earth through a small landscape company (and working outside while doing it!)

Here are some examples of work that might work against human flourishing: working for a bank that pushes high interest credit cards on college students that don’t yet understand the devastation of debt, creating and marketing unhealthy industrialized food to children, and any work that contributes to suburban sprawl which makes people and the earth unhealthy.

In between these good and bad examples of purpose are the mediocre trivialities. A million jobs that don’t seem to matter one way or the other. Don’t get stuck here!

God has created you to pursue work with a great purpose of helping people thrive in this world. Let’s pursue that.

Resources.

Does your work provide enough resources for life?

“Enough” is certainly different for different people. But having your work provide “enough” is an important factor in job fit. Let’s think about “enough” here rather than the pursuit of “more and more.”

For some people, resources seem to be the only factor in job fit. They just pursue the high paying job regardless of how well it engages them or regardless of if it has a higher purpose. Some people feel stuck in a miserable job because it pays well. Some work pays so well that it can cloud your judgement about other areas being a mismatch for your uniqueness.

On the other hand, some people find work that is super engaging and high in purpose, but it just doesn’t pay enough to work out long-term.

Let’s pursue work that provides “enough” without falling into the trap of “more and more.”

Lifestyle Design.

Does your work fit the overall lifestyle design that you want to live? Think about the total life you want to lead. Consider your health, family, ministry, and passions outside of work. Does your work fit your lifestyle design?

Great lifestyle design is about your unique values for life. For example, one person’s life design might include flexible work hours and the ability to work from anywhere in the world. The flexibility and travel helps them work at peak energy and make their best contribution to the world all while having a blast along the way.

But someone else may thrive on a regular schedule and a perfectly set up desk. The regular optimization here enables them up to make their greatest contribution to the world. Traveling the world sounds okay for vacation, but not fun for everyday life.

Some people have a lifestyle design of simple pleasures like having dinner with your family most days. You may want to sit your little one in your lap and read a story together before bed every night. But if your job requires you to travel 90% of the time, that job not be a fit for your lifestyle design. Others travel often, and create a beautiful family life in a different way.

The good news is that you get to be you! You get to pursue the lifestyle design that fits you.

And big picture, you get to pursue the work you love! The work that fits your uniqueness. God has created you for this. Don’t settle into a career of bad job fit.

To get to where you want to go, it helps to know where you are right now. Then you can chart a course to get to find your unique work in this world. I am here to help you in this journey.

Now that you know the four factors of job fit, think about your current work. Which factors fit your uniqueness? Which factors don’t?

Think about work you are considering for the future. How does it fit your uniqueness?