If we were to total up the hours of your life – every single one of them from birth to death – about 30% of those hours would be spent at work. With that much time dedicated to our careers, it’s no wonder we’re encouraged to find work we love. From the day you start considering college majors or first jobs to the day you retire, you’re told to look for work where your passions lie. Of course, it’s not exactly that easy.
Some of you will end up toiling in jobs you like, but don’t love. You work at something that pays your bills, but it’s not something you’d ever call your “dream job.” You open your favorite business magazine or pull up your favorite blog and you’re confronted with common refrains: “Look for a job you love,” or “pursue your passion.” Knowing you’re not can make you wonder where you went wrong. It can make you restless and discontented. Take a deep breath and listen carefully. Forget the adages. You should love your life. Part of that comes by recognizing that you should find love in what you do, not necessarily do what you love. What does that mean? I’m glad you asked.
It’s Not the Title
When you were a child, what did you dream for your adult self? Maybe you were going to be an astronaut, or you were going to hit a walk-off grand slam in the World Series. You went to college to pursue the study of a major that best prepared you for whatever it was you had your sights set upon in that moment. You saw yourself rise to the pinnacle of your field. Maybe you have. But maybe you’re sitting here today staring at a stack of papers on your desk wondering what happened between then and now.
Think back to those childhood dreams. What is it that appealed to you about those careers? Part of being an astronaut is exploring. The athlete that scores the ninth-inning homerun has contributed to the success of the team. The good news is that you can find those exact same perks in the job you have today. Whether you’re a staff accountant or the VP of Sales and Marketing, you can propel your team and company forward. You have the opportunity to explore new frontiers within your industry, to find a better way to do something. Thrill and excitement exist where you decide to see them.
It’s Not Just the Job
It’s important to note that you don’t have to meet all your goals in your workplace. The opportunity to live purposefully exists in many places, both at home and at work. In fact, you will likely have several jobs in your life. You might even have more than one career simultaneously. So, don’t feel like your job is the only place to achieve your goals.
I have another secret for you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a “job” to pay your bills, as long as you develop strategies that allow you to be fulfilled and satisfied in life. For example, you might find immense satisfaction in spending time with your children. Maybe acting as the soccer mom or Girl Scout troop leader will light your fire. Or you could discover a hobby that gets you so excited you decide to start your own business based on that activity.
It’s About Realistic Expectations
For some of you, the job you hold today is exactly where your passion has led you. You once dreamed of being a doctor and here you are, stethoscope in hand. You might even be somewhere you never imagined yourself landing, but the very idea of getting to do what you do brings a smile to your face. That’s awesome! Let’s be honest, though: As much as you love your job, as blessed as you feel to have it, it’s still a job. It’s not sitting on the beach sipping fruity drinks and basking in the sun or flying down the mountainside on a pair of skis. It’s work. There are deadlines and responsibilities. There are tasks that are necessary to keep your business running. There are aspects of being a manager you’d be happy to forget about. That’s okay. In fact, it’s important to talk about it because it reminds us that finding happiness on the job isn’t just about pursuing a dream. It’s about finding the joy where you are. It’s about finding balance in the office and out of it. It’s about remembering that we are more than what our business cards say.
It Sometimes Needs an Assist
When we’re bogged down and overwhelmed, it can be hard to find the joy in what we’re doing. Reach out to your support circle, your mentors, or a coach for help in clearing through the clutter. Working on your own or with your team around you, identify what a life you love would look like and make a plan on how to get there. Need a hand? There’s also a book for that: “Love Your Life: Cultivating Your Vision and Tending Your Dreams.” You can find it on Amazon.