Break Free From Self-Imposed Limitations

There are always people willing to tell you not to dream. Many of these people are well-meaning and wish you no harm. For example, when expressing dissatisfaction over my work situation in the past, even loved ones were quick to assert that most people feel the same and that it’s somehow normal and noble to accept the circumstance causing me pain. If I’d been persuaded by those well-intentioned voices, I’d still be working for an industry I care nothing about, sinking year by year into depression. I’d also have embraced the idea that work is pain, instead of an exciting, satisfying calling fundamental to what it means to be both human and happy.

In 2017 I was at the end of a 12-year stint working for a major energy supplier. During my time with that company I’d worked as a trainer, customer service rep, data analyst, and finally a compliance analyst, but none of these roles brought me much in the way of satisfaction. I am a creative person (musician and writer), and although there was some fun to be had as the ‘quirky’, or ‘eccentric’ colleague, the truth of the matter is that I was in the wrong job, which drew people with different aspirations to my own.

I remember having a panic attack during a meeting where lots of managers and a handful of senior folk were talking with corporate animation about the codes used to identify the position of electricity meters in people’s houses. It hit me hard – I didn’t care about any of it, and pretending to care had become harmful.

Preparing for change.

Meaningful change rarely happens quickly. I found it impossible to leave my job immediately, reliant as I was upon the social interaction of colleagues and a reasonable salary, but I had to do something or hope would be lost. I reduced my hours and began to focus on writing. For 6 or 7 years I poured myself into writing a fantasy series, which gave me sufficient hope that life could be different. I managed to build a readership in the 10s of thousands through self-publication and even landed a cracking literary agent, but despite all my efforts, getting a proper publishing deal has not yet happened. The real benefit of all that creative work was the development of my ability to write. There is so much to learn, and every year honed my skills until I reached a point of confidence that this is what I want to do with my life.

Thus it was that in 2017, when my employer made a whole department redundant, that I accepted the pay-out and threw myself all the more into writing. I landed a gig (through Reddit) with a Chinese educational company, writing stories for students of English in China. It was a weird and often frustrating job, writing about animals which had evolved into beings that no longer ate each other and interacted as humans do, but it helped pay the bills and added an item to my portfolio. This was accompanied by a warm welcome at Patheos, who have made me one of their featured writers and treated me with respect.

I was still earning only a meagre amount and lockdown made things harder, but month by month I pushed on, seeking any work I could get and building a portfolio that would enable me to legitimately land a copywriting role.

The first breakthrough was as senior copywriter for a digital marketing firm, and although I didn’t exactly love the topics I was asked to write about, which included STDs and nose jobs, it was a fantastic chance to learn the ropes from the inside. I worked closely with designers, understood the commercial considerations of offering a copywriting service, and enhanced my knowledge of social media and SEO among other key things.

I was still struggling with a low mood, knowing I wasn’t ultimately writing about matters that motivate me, but then I came across a creative copywriter role for a charity I admire, and to cut a long story short, I got the job.

Breakthrough comes to the determined.

These days my work is a passion. Every piece I create for my employer serves young people, including vulnerable young people, meaning that every word I write matters deeply to me. This is a tremendous privilege and honour, but it didn’t happen by accident.

I could have listened to well-meaning friends and family who are comfortable with the idea that very few people love their job and that suffering through collective misery until we retire is something to accept. This is the key message I wish to communicate – which voices do you listen to? If you have those in your life urging you to dream big, that nothing is impossible, and to put in the effort to embark on a journey of change, and if you can summon the courage to act on that advice, then you’ve got a real shot at happiness. If you listen to fearful, overly careful voices, embracing their counsel to dream small and avoid disappointment, you may never make the choices that forge a life of fulfilment and satisfaction.

How do you choose your mentors?

For me, it boils down to how we perceive the divine. If someone vibrates with love and empowerment, flowing from a deep connection with God, then they are a good person to invite into your life and receive counsel from. Personally, I am convinced that God wants each of us to discover who we are and all we can become. He has plans to prosper rather than harm us. This simple truth is frequently overlooked in preference for finding ways to accept the status quo – a false comfort. I once heard Jackie Pullinger deliver a prophecy that has guided me ever since:

‘I didn’t come to make the prison more comfortable; I came to set the captives free.’

Too often, Christians are told to embrace forms of suffering that we should seek to free ourselves from instead. We are presented with false ideas of humility that would have kept Moses from confronting Pharaoh, Joseph from pursuing his destiny, and Jesus from embracing his Messianic calling. Sometimes we are warned against ambition, but in pursuing the deep desires of the heart we find greater effectiveness and a mountain of joy.

Dear reader, I want to encourage you. For me, there are two keys to spiritual fulfilment. The first is to seek God with all your heart, as the Bible encourages us to do, and the second is to change your life to mirror the natural shape of your soul. It was God who created you the way you are, blessing you with gifts, talents, and desires that are signposts for your future. It is in this natural shape that you will serve God and others best, and find true gratitude for the life you’ve been given. I pray you will find inspiration and courage, and that your heart will say yes to the life you are crafted to live.

11/1/2022 4:02:19 PM
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  • Duncan Pile
    About Duncan Pile
    Duncan Pile is a writer, author and speaker, living in Derbyshire, England with his wife and stepson. His mystical approach to faith straddles the Evangelical/Progressive divide, and flowing from lived experience, he is passionate about the deconstruction and reconstruction of the Christian faith.