Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gates of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
– Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
I remember the first time I told my dad that I thought it was possible to make a career out of something I loved to do. He looked back at me skeptically, armed with his 30+ years of corporate experience and simply said, “That sounds nice, but at the end of the day there’s a reason they call it ‘work’, you know.”
Six years later, I look back on the decision I made to start teaching yoga full time as one that was fuelled with confidence and certainty. A series of “ah-ha” moments brought me to a place where I didn’t necessarily know how my future as a yoga instructor would pan out, and yet I had no doubt this was the right path. Now that I train teachers myself, I’m frequently asked how I make a full-time living being a yoga instructor. The same question also comes up when I talk to people who hate their jobs and wonder how it could be possible to actually get up everyday excited to go to work. These are some of the things that have guided me along the way:
Surround yourself with people you wish to emulate rather than those you merely tolerate.
During a philosophy class with Marla Joy at Downward Dog Yoga Centre, she talked about the three-fold doctrine of human interaction, whereby before speaking we are encouraged to ask ourselves if what we are about to say is true, necessary and kind. When she said that, my mind went immediately to the owner of the restaurant where I was currently working. On numerous occasions I’d witnessed him shouting at coworkers, belittling his employees or making snarky remarks about customers behind their backs. Nothing about how he treated people reflected anything kind, true or necessary. I knew in that moment that I no longer wanted to work for someone like him, and that it was time to move on to a new chapter in my life.
Determine what really matters to you and then share that passion with others. They will thank you for it.
Another epiphany occurred to me during my first teacher training program, when I started to ask myself why I not only wanted to be a yoga teacher, but also why I thought I could be a good one. I began to see how nothing in life is truly ours aside from our body—and even that, one could argue, is merely a rental. But for the most part, my body is mine and mine alone. As the saying goes, if I don’t take care of this body, I’ll have nowhere else to live. My mom has always told me, “Without health, nothing else matters.” I kept that in mind while undergoing my training to be a yoga instructor, and then it dawned on me that I wanted to help people make the most of their bodies—to experience a pain-free existence, a sense of comfort in their own skin, and a better understanding of how to keep their bodies mobile, strong and resilient throughout their lives. To this day, I can’t think of a greater honour than to guide others along that path.
Don’t assume you have control over the outcome and instead expect the unexpected.
Another gem from my mother has been the constant reminder to follow the path of least resistance. In other words, when the doors of opportunity to continue to open, you are on track. When doors only slam in your face, the energy isn’t flowing in that direction and it’s likely time to reassess. I’ve been beyond fortunate with the opportunities that teaching yoga has brought into my life. When I first started teaching, I had a list of very specific goals, like wanting to be on the schedule at Downward Dog, or becoming a lululemon ambassador. I knew I was on the right track when my list of goals turned into a list of accomplishments, and I found myself wondering what else I could start working toward. But I also found myself becoming more and more narrow-minded, and easily derailed when my plan didn’t pan out. It was at that moment that I surrendered and stopped feeling like I had to map it all out. The more I planned, the more I attained, but the less space there was in my life for the unexpected. So now I try remind myself that just because I don’t have all the details nailed down doesn’t mean there another plan in store, one that is bigger and better than I could have imagined.
Be grateful to those you have in your corner.
It’s not easy to turn what you love into work, because there will always be times when you’ll wish that you hadn’t polluted what you love with the realities of building a career (routine, politics, fatigue, and even failure). But I doubt my dad thinks much about his early skepticism regarding my decision to start teaching yoga. I know it wasn’t always easy for him and my mom to defend my choice to friends and family who learned of my pretty drastic diversion from an MA in Social Anthropology, but they stood behind me then, and they stand behind me now—sometimes even on their heads! They’ve come on my retreats, attended my classes and recommended me to family and friends. Without them on my team, this journey would be far less meaningful.
Still skeptical that you can do what you love and get paid (well!) to do it? Perhaps you need to watch this and listen to the man who taught me how to be “In my element” talk about finding the place where what you love intersects with what you’re good at, and let the rest take care of itself.