By Morella Devost
Testing… testing… 1… 2… 3…
Few things excite me more than the prospect of getting mic-ed up to speak in front of a live audience. The larger the audience, the more excited I get. Public speaking—apparently the single most common fear for people everywhere—is a source of joy and a thrill for me. I come to life speaking from a stage.
I was in my twenties when I began to discover this. At the time, I had graduated from college and entered a career in marketing that I hated. Feeling miserable in my fancy job, I began a much-needed career re-evaluation. It didn’t take long to zero in on the awareness that public speaking had always had an immense draw for me.
As far back as I can remember, I was reaching for the microphone. In the fifth grade, I volunteered to write a paper about the Venezuelan flag overnight. The reward for the task? Reading it onstage at school assembly the following morning. Whenever we had mass at our Catholic school (which was often), I would volunteer to do one of the readings. In high school, a friend and I would rush to the administrator’s office at the end of the day in order to claim the microphone to call out students’ names as their parents arrived to fetch them.
Yes, I’ve long known that I love a microphone. But an even deeper realization came to me one night in 2010.
It was a weeknight and I was scheduled to teach a workshop for adults at a local high school. I can’t remember what I was teaching; all I know is that I had a pretty bad cold. I probably should have cancelled, but a large group was already registered and I didn’t want to inconvenience them. As I arrived at the school parking lot, I sat in my car for a few moments. Having no energy, I readied myself to plow through the class and head back home. But to my astonishment nearly two hours later, as I walked back to my car at the end of the class, I noticed just how great I felt! Gone was the heavy body and foggy head. I had much more energy than I did before the class. When I got into my car, I remember saying to myself, “mental note: speaking in public energizes me.”
My passion for speaking and getting on top of a soapbox has led me to produce two community TV shows—first Holistically Speaking and now my weekly TV-radio-podcast show called Thrive With Morella. I simply adore the experience of being able to share constructive, uplifting information that might help someone in their life. For me, sharing content that is inspiring and helpful is just as energizing as the speaking itself.
I believe it behooves everyone to pay attention to the type of work or activity that energizes them. Whatever that is for you, it’s also likely to be precisely what you are most naturally gifted at doing.
Now, the opposite is also true: it’s just as important to know what work or activities drain you—though it sometimes takes courage. If you were to truly pay attention, you might discover that you are doing work that is neither your greatest talent nor your passion. It might even imply a complete career overhaul, and that can be a pickle.
Sometimes the work can be so soul-sucking that you can’t help but notice your lifeforce dwindling every minute you spend engaged in it. That was my case while working in marketing. I hated the job so much that it took an inordinate amount of energy to do it well. And at the end of the day, I felt as though my life did not belong to me.
Knowing when work drains you is pretty straightforward when you hate what you’re doing. It’s trickier to discern when the project is tolerable or it “makes sense.” I’m sure many of you are just like me: we’re quite good at rolling up our sleeves and getting the job done. The downside of our “get ’er done “ spirit? It can keep us from our best and highest work. We miss the opportunity to realize that our energy and our talents are best invested elsewhere…and we might do this for years!
The reality is this: there are infinite great ideas. It doesn’t mean that they are meant to be our ideas to pursue.
I’ve undertaken many business projects over the years that in hindsight were not a good fit for me. Some were excellent business ideas with great financial logic. I tackled them with enthusiasm and determination, and invested significant amounts of time, money, and effort into them. But when my heart and soul were not the source of these projects, but rather my “head,” the outcome was either lack-luster financial results or personal burnout more often than not. Sometimes both.
Our upbringing and social norms tell us that hard work is not only good, but the only way to succeed. Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…”
We value a good “work ethic” and being “good students.” This isn’t necessarily wrong, but by putting so much emphasis on getting things done, we often fail to engage in the all-important exploration of what gives us joy. At least I did. I was well into my twenties when I realized I had never explored what I loved. Even now in my mid-forties, I still constantly need to take a close look at my projects to see where I’m just plowing ahead rather than fully enjoying the dance of my hard work.
I’m committed to the quest of making my work feel like play. Even if it means working 60 hours a week, I’m looking for the types of projects and activities that not only excite me but leave me feeling lucky for having done them. The opportunity to share something of value in front of a room of 200 people would be one of them. I love it!
I believe the more you express your greatest gifts and do things that energize you, the more fulfilled you become. And I believe this is how you make your greatest contributions to the planet. (Think of Einstein! He didn’t do physics because it needed to be done. He did it because he loved it!)
So I’m wondering, dear reader, are you already doing the work that feels like play for you? If that’s the case, hooray! You are a gift and contribution exactly where you are. If not, can I invite you to get curious about what energizes you and what drains you? What if doing work that depletes you is not a contribution at all? That by wiping you out, you have less to give your family and yourself, while you deprive the world of your greatest gifts.
What is your own version of a microphone? Where in your life have you felt so excited to do something that you were more energized after the task than before it? What might happen if you allow yourself to imagine pursuing it?
Your happiness is one of the greatest contributions you can make to your family, your community, and the planet. So give it a test. Testing… testing… 1… 2… 3… you’ve got my permission to explore. We need you happy, energized, and sharing your gifts.
Morella Devost facilitates profound transformation for people who want to thrive in health and life. She has master’s degrees in Counseling from Columbia University, and is also a Clinical Hypnotherapist, NLP facilitator, and Holistic Health Coach. She is also the host of the Thrive With Morella show.