Can you have more than one Life’s Work?

How many Life’s Work can you have?

Normally, we think of our Life’s Work as our our job, career or work. But previously, I shared eight different types of Life’s Work.

Which raises some questions. How many Life’s Work can you have? And how many is too many?

ONE

A Single Focus

Let’s start with one Life’s Work. What does that look like?

This is how we usually think of our Life’s Work. It’s a single we focus on and we design your life around this primary thing.

The most common example is someone who is career-driven. We carve out five days a week in our life, build our wardrobe on it and answer our emails after hours to satisfy it. But it might also be:

  • An athlete training for the Olympics.
  • A parent devoted to their family.
  • A friend who lives for their social network.
  • Or someone who lives for their hobby.

Shifting Your Life’s Work

Another version of this is to have a single Life’s Work that shifts, changes and evolves.

This might reflect changing priorities as you grow older. For instance, you might be a professional athlete in your 20s, a parent in your 30s, career-driven in your 40s and focused on the Common Good in your 50s.

Life's Work - Eight DomainsOr it could reflect changing priorities as you grow your career. You start by studying hard to pursue a career. Invest time to get a starting position and gain experience. Take on more responsibility to lead projects. Then you might nurture and mentor others to follow in your footsteps. In this example, you might devote yourself to a single organisation your entire career but your expression of your Life’s Work evolves as you become more influential in your work.

MANY

While the common story is to have a single Life’s Work, the reality for most of us is that we will have more than one focus at any one time.

Two Life’s Work

While I’m single-minded and focused on the things I create, my Life’s Work still has two domains.

I spend a lot of my life writing books, creating videos and making art. That’s my Creator domain.

But I’m also always working to improve myself. I’m constantly reading and learning, I practise mindfulness every day to become a better person, I spend more than an hour a day keeping fit, and I eat a whole food plant-based diet to stay healthy. Plus, I do regular fasting which takes my health to another level.

That’s two strong areas of focus: Creator and Self.

Primary and Secondary Domains

I describe my Creator domain as my primary Life’s Work and Self as my secondary.

Previously, I talked about On-Field and Off-Field actions in my Game Plan. My Creator domain is my on-field actions – the actions I take that produce specific results. My Self is the off-field actions that help me perform at my best.

Life's Work - Primary and Secondary Domains

Some common examples of having two Life’s Work domains include:

  • Family and Career – work hard to feed the family
  • Career and Bucket List – work hard to pay for travels and adventures
  • Hobby and Career – work hard to fund your skydiving hobby
  • Connection and Career – work hard to build social connections to grow your career/business
  • Career and Common Good – work hard for a social enterprise to create the world you want to live in
  • Family and Social – you take care of your immediate family and actively lead your extended family in spending time together

A Stacked Life’s Work

You can also stack several of these domains together.

For instance, your focus might be career and you do this through building networks of people. (Career plus Connection)

But you might also have a passion for an area of Common Good eg Climate Change. As a result, you become the Community Manager for a Social Enterprise. That’s three domains: Career, Connection and Common Good.

Another example might be Family, Bucket List and Hobby. You may be the primary caregiver for your family, and love taking them on a list of adventures while you study your family tree and connecting family members.

Life's Work - Many Domains

TOO MANY

But when does this get too much?

It would be easy to want to dabble in all eight domains. They’re all inviting. But is this possible?

It certainly is, but there is a trade-off or concession to be made.

Imagine that you wanted to be a professional athlete. You love golf, tennis and football. But it’s more than likely you could only make it to an elite level in one of these sports.

Overlap and Alignment

Life's Work - Overlap and Alignment

To make this work, the critical thing is to look for overlap or alignment. This is a crucial concept in having a Work-Life Balance.

In the previous example, Career, Connection and Common Good were found in a single position as a Community Engagement role at a social enterprise. This is an example of a strong overlap in one area of focus.

But if your circles don’t overlap  then you’re splitting your energy, time and attention across multiple things. And this will weaken the results you produce in any area.

The drawing below from Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism sums it up. You want your efforts to head in a single direction to have the most impact.

The choice here is about the level of impact you want to have. Do you want to play lightly across multiple fields or dig deeply into one or a few?

Greg McKeown - Essentialism - The Power of Focus
Greg McKeown’s Essentialism

The Critical Questions

The critical questions are these.

  • How many Life’s Work do you have?
  • And is this working for you? In other words, is this fulfilling and satisfying or are you stressed out and lacking focus?

More on Fulfilling Your Life’s Work

To go further and deeper on fulfilling your Life’s Work read these posts next:

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