What do a snowstorm, zoo and work have in common?

Finding your place.

I will begin with the snowstorm.

On January 11th this year, Portland, Oregon experienced an epic snowfall. In city more likely to experience rain than snow, the one foot of snow resulted in many closures. One of them was the Portland zoo.  (See the video at the end of this article.)

Inside the zoo, the keepers filmed animals playing in the snow.

One of the animals, a year-old polar bear named Nora who has always lived in captivity, is seen rolling and burying herself as she experiences more snow than she ever has in her life.

She looks delighted. 

What does this have to do with work?  A couple of things.

When you are in your element, you just know what to do.

Watching her roll around, we understand Nora knows in all her cells the nature of snow. It is as if she had done this her entire life.

When you find the work you were born to do, you will have a reaction like the polar bear. That spirit of delight and feeling alive.

When people discover the work that engages them in the right way, there is a recognition, almost on a cellular level. The work will be attached to your gifts and talents so there is an innateness about what you do.

Play is how we learn

All of the animals shown in the Portland Zoo share an instinct of curiousness about the snow. Their curiosity melds with playfulness as they enter into a new world. They run through the snow, roll their bodies in it and fling it in the air. 

When you are launching into work that fits for you, you will experience a spirit of curiosity, wanting to learn more about it and immersing yourself in all of its facets.

There will be a sense of play, as you have probably heard from others – this is so much fun, you would do this even if you weren’t being paid. 

Anything new includes a leap of faith

As I watched the elephant coming out of its enclosure and being exposed to the snow, there was a slight hesitation. I imagine it wondering what happened. And then off it went into the new world.

The idea of moving into something new in your life, even if it is something that is exciting has an element of stepping out of the familiar into newness. There is a time between leaving and entering where you have no idea what is before you.

Even if you have weighed the pros and cons, created a safety net and planned for potential obstacles, there will likely be a point where you have doubts and fears. And you will take the step anyway because you know that between you and where you want to go, this step has to be taken.

When I work with clients who are at this spot, I think of the Hero’s Journey, a mythic depiction of what humans experience again and again in our lives. The Hero reaches a point where a choice is made and there is no going back.