Happiness doesn’t always have to be out of reach–even at work.
The story is the same for many, you graduated, started a job, it turned into a career. You’ve been successful, and you’re good at what you do. You provide for your family, you’re respected, and you are depended on. It seems you have everything under control and everything you want in life. Awards, recognition, and an annual raises are all regular occurrences in your life.
The problem is you’re miserable.
Where did we go wrong, when did this happen, why do we feel trapped? I’ve done everything I thought I was supposed to do in life; worked hard, provided for my family, and started planning for my retirement. For many men, we find ourselves doing only what we think we are required to do. Our personal happiness is often left on the side of the road somewhere to make ourselves feel like providers or protectors.
This certainly isn’t the faults of our families, and it isn’t the fault of the companies we have dedicated our lives to. The issue isn’t finding fault at all or even a place to lay blame for our unhappiness. The key is to find out why are we really unhappy and find ways to solve it. There will be no relief for anyone if we continue to wallow in our self-pity and feelings of unfulfillment. The unhappiness is there, and if you don’t find a solution, it will continue to eat at you, maybe even to the point you do something detrimental to your career and the livelihood of those who depend on you.
The answer may simply be finding happiness in what you are already doing. This isn’t what most of us in these circumstances want to hear. The easy answer today is to say, “find freedom” “create happiness” “live your passions” and nobody wants to face a reality that sometimes it isn’t the job, it’s you. Believe it or not, even in today’s society of living for yourself and an almost cult-like following of self-centeredness responsibilities still exist. Those responsibilities don’t go away because you decide that you should have become a magician instead of an investment banker.
So you’re unhappy, you’re unsatisfied, and you’re ready to quit your job. How do you reignite the passion you once had and find the desire to continue to be the best you can be? It’s not easy but there are some steps to take that can help you get there.
Identity what the real issues are— Every problem has a root cause, you don’t suddenly wake up one day hating your life and your career. It’s a set of circumstances that build up over the course of months or even years that convince you that your chosen career is not only unfulfilling but meaningless. There is an unhappiness that has built up, usually in several areas of our lives that push us to the point that we decide we have to do something drastic to get our lives under control again.
Eliminate as much debt as possible— From my personal experiences, the times I had the feeling of restlessness and unfulfillment in my job were when I had allowed debt and monthly bills balloon out of control. Nothing will make you believe that you are in the wrong line of work like being underwater in debt. The sinking feeling is unbearable, and when panic sets in, we begin to think irrationally. In our minds, we decide that to get out of this debt, we need a new better job that will pay more. So obviously we have to make wholesale changes in our lives, and that means a career change.
Recognize the good you do provide— I’ve heard it many times, “what I do doesn’t matter to the world” meaning they don’t feel they make a difference. I have had that feeling a few times. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter what you do in life; somehow it touches someone else’s life. In some small way, you have the ability to make someone’s life better by what you do, you have to identify that and understand that without you and people like you then the world isn’t a better place.
Reevaluate your life outside of work— What are you filling your spare time with? Do you have real quality time away from the office? Coming home kicking off your shoes and flopping down in the recliner seems wonderful at times, and occasionally isn’t a bad idea. However, if all there is to your life is work and television, your sense of fulfillment is going to be pretty empty. Find a hobby, get involved with your children’s schools, take your wife on weekend adventures. Whatever it is, find something away from your job that helps shape who you are as a person.
Understand risk— I certainly don’t want anyone to think I don’t believe in chasing dreams or following your hearts. What I am saying is that you should never go into anything uninformed. Too often we only hear the positive stories of people who have taken risks and decided to follow new paths. The biggest thing most of those success stories have is people that were prepared, educated and a sufficient backup plan. You must understand for yourself and your family what the entire risk of such a decision is. Knowing the goals are easy, to understand what happens if you fail, is altogether different.
The truth is, all of us have in us the ability to be successful at anything we put our minds to. I know that our heart has to be in what we do to be fulfilled. For many of us, though, uprooting an entire life’s work is not always the answer. When so much time, energy and effort have been put into building a foundation for a career, we have to be willing to, at least, evaluate the situation on a much broader scale.
Happiness doesn’t always have to be out of reach.
Photo: Flickr/ Mr. Nixter