In the wake of disasters like the Sept. 11th attack on the World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina, there are many question marks in the air. When a tragedy strikes, I hear clients, students, colleagues, and the people from around the world who correspond with me asking many things, of themselves and others.

“How can I help?” is one common question. “What will this economic downturn mean for my business?” is another. I also hear people asking, “Is what I am doing really meaningful? After all, if I don’t know that I’ll be alive tomorrow, is this work where I truly want so many of my waking hours to be spent?”

It all adds up to a time of doubt, rethinking, even total confusion about where you are headed and what to do next. For me, what uncertain times require is the assurance that only comes from being firmly grounded in your personal values and a sense of purpose. What does that have to do with marketing your business, you might ask? I think it has everything to do with it.

If you want to sell someone else on something, you had better believe in it 100%. If you’re having doubts; if you’re no longer sure that the business you are in is the right one to be in, how can you possibly be sincere in your marketing?

We’ve all been sold to by an inauthentic salesperson — and hated the experience. As an independent consultant or professional, what you are selling is you. You have to believe in yourself or no one else will. When you find yourself in a place of questioning, perhaps it’s the time to better align what you do for a living with what you want to do for a life.

So many people have told me in recent years that they want to be of service in some way. I don’t think there is any more powerful way to be of service than to earn one’s living at it. Why? Because it’s where your vocation meets your avocation, your labor intersects with your values, and the purpose of your day joins with your purpose for being alive.

This is the concept of right livelihood, well known to Buddhist teachers and modern writers such as Marsha Sinetar, who describes it as work “consciously chosen.” She also assures us that it doesn’t have to mean vows of poverty.

Here’s what I know. My own work is consciously chosen to honor some of my highest values: being of service, creative expression, human connection, and independence. Until I found this work over fifteen years ago, I wandered from one career and business enterprise to the next, with minimal success at any of them. Marketing was always a struggle. I was afraid to do it and procrastinated to avoid it.

When everything turned around for me was the moment I declared I would start a business that honored my values. As soon as I did this, marketing became effortless, and more than that, overwhelmingly successful. I could speak authentically about my belief in what I was doing, and people I had never met suddenly believed in me.

Some of you reading this are working in a business you don’t believe in. My prescription for you is simple: get out, and find something else. You want a competitive edge in a tight marketplace? Finding and following your right livelihood will give it to you. (I’m speaking from experience — the U.S. was headed into a recession at the time I redirected my career path.)

For my other readers who believe you truly are on the path of right livelihood already, I gently invite you to look again. What action have you not taken, what territory haven’t you entered simply because of fear? Please notice that the fear is still there whether you take action or not. If you have to be afraid anyway, wouldn’t it be better to be moving in the right direction?

Copyright © 2001-2005, C.J. Hayden. All rights reserved.

This article was first published in the October 2001 issue of the Get Clients Now! E-Letter and updated in 2005. If you would like to reprint it in your publication, please contact me for details and permission.

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