Big Book Recovery

Working the 12 Step Programme

Appendix 1- Careers Guidance

Discerning Our Full Vocation In Life

"None of us makes a sole vocation of this work, nor do we think its effectiveness would be increased if we did."{p19} This sentence tells us that God's vision for us includes our AA work, but it also includes more. Certainly, the carrying of the AA message to alcoholics must be our primary purpose, for without sobriety we have nothing else. But we have other vocations. Now that we are trying to live lives that are obedient to spiritual principles, we are free to seek God's will for us and to participate in His expansive vision for us. Great things can come to pass. "See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others." {p164} This is no exaggeration.

Anything is possible with God.

Therefore, if we are seeking to conform to His will, anything is possible for us. We are promised lives beyond our wildest dreams. Allow yourself to dream wildly. As long as what we seek is not dishonest or contrary to spiritual principles then we are entitled to have it.1 Similarly, we can dream for any occupation that we want - artist, musician, prime minister - as long as carrying out that occupation doesn't contravene spiritual principles.2 Many of us were dreamers before we came in. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact the Big Book tells us that dreaming is a good thing. God would like us, we are told, to "keep our heads in the clouds", provided that it is tempered by a God-centred practicality: "This dream world [of old] has been replaced by a greater sense of purpose, accompanied by a growing consciousness of the power of God in our lives. We have come to believe He would like us to keep our head in the clouds with Him, but that our feet ought to be planted on earth." {p130}

Dare to dream. So how do we do this? How do we aim to achieve our wildest dreams?

Choosing the right dream: The most important thing is to have that dream: to know what we really want to do. We ask God to show us what he wants us to do in life in addition to our 12th step work. It is very probably something that we have always wanted to do, but never had the nerve to try. We don't limit ourselves. We don't allow worries about whether or not we will ever be able to do it, worries about our lack of ability or talent or worries about how we will manage to support a family or ourselves limit our ambition. None of these things are problems to God when we are fulfilling His dream for us. Here is a question you can ask yourself to help you to decide what to do:

  • If I inherited so much money that I never needed to work again, what activity would you choose to do, 9am-5pm, five days a week?

Note: this is not asking you what you would like to be - "pop star" is not an answer. It is asking you about what you like to do - "sing" might be an answer. Once you have established, for example, that singing is what you would like to do, there is nothing wrong in seeking to be a chart-topping, successful singer.

If two or three possibilities occur, then put them all down on paper and sort them out, as best you can, into an order or preference. Then follow the procedure below on the first until either you achieve your dream, or you decide that your initial choice is not for you. If it is the latter, draw up another dream-job list, pick the item that is now on the top and follow the same procedure. A good rule of thumb in deciding whether or not you have picked the right thing to do is that the more you do it, the more you like it. If your chosen activity is not meant to be anything more than a hobby, then at a certain point you will reach saturation point. You will say: "I like this, but not to the extent that I want to spend 9-5 five days a week doing it." That's fine, now you know. Move onto the next dream that occurs.

If you cannot think what it is you want to do. Then do not worry about it. The idea will come to you when God is ready to give it to you. We need that dream. Ask God for his vision for you! It will come: "Your imagination will be fired." Until that moment, we patiently wait and keep enjoying the great gifts that God gives us each day in the mean time.


How to achieve the dream. When the idea comes to you, then follow the procedure given below:

1. Write down (ie use a pen and paper) a detailed picture of what you want to do. Describe your daily duties. If you want to include the place you want to live, the details of the family you would like, the sort of house you want to live in, then do so. Write it down so that you can really see it, really picture in your mind's eye what your vision is. Put down a target time by which you want to have these things.

2. Once you have written down that detailed vision, your ideal for your career, then read it each day and ask God to show you the way to achieve it. Do not feel any hesitation in trusting that it will happen. Don't lose sight of what you are aiming for. "Every day is a day we must carry a vision of God's will into our activities. 'How can I serve thee, thy will not mine be done.' We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of will."{p85} We keep doing this until the vision is indelibly printed in our souls.

3. Do not worry about how you will get there. All you need to know is the first step on the journey. You can think about the second step after you have taken the first. If you are constantly aware of your vision you will recognise opportunities to move in the right direction as they present themselves.

4. When you take a decision to move in the direction you want, do check it out with someone who understands this process, yet can take an objective viewpoint. Ideally this would be your sponsor. This is important because while God would like us to dream, as we have stated, he does want us to keep our "feet planted on earth." If we are taking advice, we are less likely to take reckless or foolhardy steps that, for instance, might put the welfare of our families at risk needlessly. If we are meant to be doing something, then we will be shown a way that is sensible and practical. All we have to do is cooperate, taking whatever avenues open up before us. Remember, don't worry about the how, but always keep in mind your final vision.

5. However, we must be prepared to take those opportunities when they present themselves. Surround yourself with a number of people who will encourage you in what you are aiming to do. It is very important to maintain a positive attitude towards this. Do not discuss it with those who will not understand the basis upon which you are doing it, for they are bound to discourage you from trying to achieve what you want. Do not listen to those who will not share with you an enthusiasm for you to go for gold. Do keep regular contact, ideally weekly, with those who will instil in you a positive and enthusiastic attitude. It is vital to maintain a positive attitude and to reject discouragement.

6. Possible ways to help us to find the next course of action on our way.You might try one or more of the following approaches:

1. Talk to experts in your chosen field. Ask them how they got to where they are now. Ask them to suggest ways that you can begin to follow their example. If any are discouraging, drop them. Stick with those who are encouraging, for as long as they will allow you to. It is usually not a good idea to ask for a job. Ask for help and suggestions. (If it is in their power and they want to help you, then they will offer a job anyway. You don't need to ask.)

2. Learn about the field you want to enter. Get as much knowledge as you can. Consider taking classes or courses in what you want to do. The information or skills you learn are more important than the qualification received.

3. Get a job that is in the environment where people are doing what you want to do. The job does not have to be in your chosen field. It will be useful if it is taking you closer to your final destination. For example, if you want to be an artist you might get a job as a janitor in an art school.3 Once you are there then wait for the second step to reveal itself to you. In going for this sort of position: do be prepared to put your pride to one side - don't worry about what others think; but don't get a job without consideration of the practical consequences of taking it. For example, will you be able to pay the rent, support your family? If you cannot fulfil any obligations you might have, then wait: another way will appear.

About money.

Some people are inclined to define to set targets in terms of income eg "I want to be earning a million pounds a year in 10 years' time." We feel that God is calling us to do His will. It is His vocation that we should strive for. Money is not bad in itself; it is only bad if it becomes more important to us than the use we put it to. If we become obsessed with our financial security by hoarding selfishly or if we spend it, but spend it profligately or selfishly then we are making money our god. Money in itself cannot make us happy. If it is spent on enabling us to fulfill our dreams, and if that dream coincides with God's vision for us, then that will help to make us happy.

Provided we are certain that God's will for us requires an annual expenditure of £1M per annum then it is quite legitimate to set this as a target. However, there is a pitfall here. No budget can be completely accurate. If we set it too high, we might waste energy trying to earning more than we need, so deflecting us from really achieving our goals; and placing the temptation to use any excess badly. If we set the budget too low, then we are limiting our abilities to do His will. It is quite possible that in fact God's will for us would require an annual expenditure of £2M per annum, in which case we would be falling short in our targets. If we make too much money, then we can always give the excess away to good causes. Therefore, it is this last point that is the most important (for if we make more than we need we can always give it away). But if we make less than we need, then we cannot do God's will. Therefore, as a general rule we do not set financial goals or budgets in our vision statement on the grounds that it is placing limits on God's providence. We define very clearly the lifestyle and activities that we want to have and do and then trust that God will give us precisely what we need to do His will. God will provide the resources we need (which will include sufficient money) to achieve this if it is His intention. We can be assured of that. Note: this discussion is in the context of our vision statement. We are not saying that we ignore placing figures on financial needs at every level or that there are no exceptions to this general rule. Sometimes, once we get into the detail of putting it into practice, it is very clear that we have to raise a certain amount of money to achieve a certain end or for particular projects. For example, at an everyday level, if we have no money in the bank and a £70 electricity bill comes in, then we can see that we need £70 to pay the bill. Also, we might come across a millionaire donor who asks the simple question, how much do you want to pay for your university project? In this case we try to come up with an answer! But we try to avoid setting financial goals as ends in themselves because we might be selling ourselves short. We don't want to set upper limits on what God might give to us.

What happens if we have setbacks or don't achieve our targets?

We might have given the impression that once we start to aim for our dreams then we are guaranteed to achieve them. If this is so then we did not intend this. Certainly, as we have said before, anything is possible with God and to place limits on our dreams is to place limits on God's generosity and power. However, it is important to remember that the only thing we are guaranteed when we strive to do God's will is happiness. Ultimately it is the journey that will give us fulfillment as much as reaching the destination. This is consoling because it might be that His intention for us is that we will always be striving for that dream but never achieving it. Some people might experience a long trail of disappointment and even suffering. However, provided we are following His call, we will always be given the strength to turn the negatives that God permits into positives for us so that we are happy regardless. Good will always emerge from them. It is important to remember this because otherwise we might be tempted to conclude that the reason we have not succeeded is because we are not close to God. If we are following the suggested programme then it cannot be so. So in order to stay happy we have to persevere regardless of the result keep traveling and never give up.

Persistence and perseverance.

Having said that, we should always be looking to learn lessons from our experiences and be ready to change our approach or direction. If you try one route and you get a sense after giving it a good shot that you are no longer making progress, then look for another way of moving forward. Don't persist forever making the same unsuccessful actions. Sometimes we have to take sidesteps around obstacles in order to get to where we want to go. Sometimes we need to amend our goals. God has a route planned for you whatever your present circumstances, if you are on that route, you will have a sense of forward momentum. Believe it. As Dr Bob said: "Your Heavenly Father will never let you down!"{p181}

There is one other reason that you may not reach your goal - a good reason: along the way you receive may something so much better than you could have possibility imagined, that you amend your goal to what you already have. In other words we may not get what we are looking for because God has something even better in mind for us - something beyond our wildest dreams!

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