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Career, Calling, and "Pootling Sideways"

A new approach to work, life, and doing it all

My first encounter with the concept of "pootling" was through a recent article in The Telegraph. Radhika Sanghani described how British Millennial women stopped pursuing high-paid positions in favor of "pootling along sideways." For those unfamiliar with the term, as I was, to "pootle" is to roam or wander. You won't find it in the unabridged Merriam-Webster, but in the online urban dictionary.

For most women today, especially Millennial women, career has been redefined. As Thom and Jess Rainer discovered through their research in The Millennials: Connecting to America's Largest Generation, women want a healthy work/life balance that respects family and friends as priorities. They want to work where it makes a difference and to ensure their organizations contribute to society. They want to integrate career and calling into a lifework that supports and encourages lateral, life-stage development over traditional ladder climbing.

Having raised four children while pursuing a career during the era of trying to do it all, the concept of pootling sideways would have defined me as the dreaded underachiever.

Having raised four children while pursuing a career during the era of trying to do it all, the concept of pootling sideways would have defined me as the dreaded underachiever. By nature, I am intense and have much to learn about wandering. My idea of exploring the Rocky Mountains was a 10-day backpacking trip into Canada, hiking to a 10,000-foot elevation with four children under the age of 15 (all with their own backpacks—everyone had to carry their own food and shelter), a soon-to-be second husband, and a sawed-off toothbrush (to minimize weight).

It was with this same vigor that I poured myself into career and calling, dedicating no less than my full attention—a mathematical anomaly since my four kids and new marriage required equal amounts of commitment. After all, women, then and now, hold a strategic and influential position within culture and community. When this is coupled with a calling to live like Christ, our influence is powerful. The mere idea of impacting the world for Christ inspired me to write a speech, lead the charge, start a movement. Pootling sideways through career, calling, marriage, or motherhood would have been, well, counter-cultural at best.

But Christ calls us to be counter-cultural. Culture change occurs at the fringes which, whether sideways or other ways, requires us to act counter-intuitively. Our perfect example is Christ, whose counter-cultural leadership was demonstrated through the upside-down way of extreme servanthood. Christ provided the perfect example of counter-cultural influence by wandering always at the edges of society.

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