Gail Mayer Jankovski asks is your job is really standing in the way of you living the life you desire?
The Personal Development industry is no different from the diet and beauty industries – Our dissatisfaction with ourselves, and our lives, is what feeds it and keep it going. It is what keeps us buying. They are all pitching an unattainable, or at least elusive, ideal to us.
The successful PD blogger imploring us to quit our jobs and live our (his?) dream, lest we remain uninspired sheep, is exploiting our insecurities to sell his product the same way the cosmetics company advertising with a photo-shopped model is. He knows that it is ridiculous and unrealistic for every reader to quit their job and become a PD guru, but selling us that possibility keeps us questioning ourselves and coming back for more.
What if we were happy with our lives, just way they are?
What if the key to fulfillment wasn’t a total shift in the way we live—which most of us aren’t going to do anyway—but rather a reframing of our beliefs and expectations? Well that isn’t very sexy, and it isn’t going to sell many books.
I am not suggesting that we should never make shifts in our lives, change careers, or seek new challenges. And I am certainly not suggesting that someone stay in a job if they don’t want to. What I am suggesting is that we let go of the ‘job as our ultimate fulfillment’ fairy tale. Because for many of us it doesn’t live up to the hype, and it can keep us stuck in a self-fulfilling cycle of lack, disappointment and even self-recrimination. And I think most of us have more than enough of that in our lives.
I wrote last time about the fallacy of finding your passion, but the reality is that many of us do buy into that myth precisely because we don’t like our jobs. My foray into the personal development world started me questioning whether we are being conditioned to feel negatively about working at a job that is anything less than our “grand purpose,” so our dissatisfaction becomes self-fulfilling. And it perpetuates one big, vicious circle.
If you love your job—great—more power to you. You can probably stop reading now. If you hate your job with a passion and dread going there every day—it’s probably time to update your resume. But most of our work experiences fall somewhere in between living the dream and the so-called soulless drudgery that paid employment is sometimes framed as.
I have often heard it said that mundane, boring and unpleasant tasks are more enjoyable, or at least palatable, if one is working towards something they love (such as their so-called passion or purpose.) So clearly not-so-pleasant tasks can be reframed to reflect our feelings surrounding them. What if our passion, or purpose, is not merely our job, but rather building the entirety of a life we desire? It only makes sense then that our job, within the framework of building that life, can be reframed in a positive light.
So rather than berating you for choosing a job for such mundane purposes as (gasp!) living, eating and supporting a family – I would rather talk about how we can start now, wherever we are, to bring more happiness into the lives (and jobs) we have. And we can begin to do that by delving into our identities, choices and expectations.
You are not your job, and your job does not define you.
We get to define ourselves, and we can do so in any way we choose. Some people identify very strongly with their career—others more so with their family, their faith, their interests, or any number of things. But somewhere along the way we have been conditioned to conflate our identity with how we earn a living.
Remember that question you were often asked as a child: What do you want to be when you grow up? It wasn’t asking what we wanted to do for a living, but rather what we wanted to be. So we were taught from a young age to connect not only our self-worth, but also our actual identity, with our career.
But if we connect our identity, the very essence of who we are, with a job we don’t love—then what are we saying about ourselves? I have personally found it useful to let go of that paradigm. I am a mom, a wife, a writer, a hypnotist, an animal advocate, and more. I also earn most of my money working in an administrative capacity for an accounting firm—that it is a choice I have made, but it is not who I am.
Your job is a choice, so choose it fully, and own your choice. We often refer to being stuck in a job that we dislike, but is that really an accurate assessment? I was there a few years ago myself, complaining that I hated my job, but had no other options. The truth is I did have a choice; I could have left my job any time I wanted. But I chose to go there every day because I didn’t like the consequences of choosing differently.
I was choosing to stay at my job for the ease, income and security it provided to my family and me. And you know what I realized? There is nothing wrong with that choice—it is a perfectly valid one. In fact, I still work there, and I no longer hate my job. (Well, not every day anyway.) Fully choosing our actions gives us agency over our lives.
Having no choice, or believing we have no choice, can induce feelings of anxiety and powerlessness. If you have chosen to stay at your job, for whatever reason, acknowledge that as a choice you are making, and own it. There is power in recognizing our current situation as a choice that we are making, and that can help to shift feelings of stress and anxiety, to freedom, and even gratitude.
Gratitude and happiness
And gratitude is the ultimate happiness booster—there is nothing like feeling grateful for what you have to expand your satisfaction in life. But gratitude is not simply a spontaneous emotion, or a random occurrence; it is an action, and a practice. Gratitude is something we can cultivate.
- Try this: next time you make a fun or extravagant purchase (or book a holiday, or have a nice meal in a restaurant) express gratitude for how that occurred for you. Think about how the means to do those things occurred for you, and what that brought into your life. See if you can expand that gratitude to the job that continues to provide you with the necessities (and luxuries!) of a life you enjoy.
- Is there anything else your job brings you, or adds to your life? Friends, social interaction, learning opportunities, intellectual challenges—maybe you met your spouse there. Maybe it is providing you with valuable experiences, connections, and opportunities for the future. Dig a little deeper and express gratitude for anything (even little things) that your job has brought, and continues to bring, into your life.
But don’t expect your job to provide everything.
Our job doesn’t have to be the be all and end all of our personal development and fulfillment in life, and we can choose to live our passions in any number of ways. In fact we can sometimes even focus on the negative of one area of our lives to mask our dissatisfaction in other areas, and that can lead to inertia.
It is easy to project our unhappiness on the most obvious thing in front of us, be it our job, our family, our relationship—and our discomfort can easily be misconstrued as being about that thing, when it may actually be about something else. But if we look within we may realize that the feelings we are experiencing may be a reflection of a lack, in one area of our life, or as a pattern across our life as a whole.
Is your job is really standing in the way of you living the life you desire? Or is it a convenient excuse to remain stagnant? Our passion and purpose can be expressed in a myriad of ways—and we can experience joyful and fulfilling lives regardless of the job or career that we choose.
Previously published in Spiraling Up.
Photo by Dylan