Shawn Henfling explores what it takes to live a purpose filled life.
“Find a job you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” Yup. What a pile of crap. In a world full of cliche’s, slang, colloquialisms and jargon, this one ranks up near the top of things I never want to hear again. The saying should be more along the lines of “Find a job you don’t hate and keep it. Fun is for kids and parties.” I think it goes without saying that I’m not in love with my job. There are days, in fact, when I feel like a cheap whore, willing to do anything for the almighty dollar. I, avid readers, am in sales.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was a child, full of wonder and aspirations, naivete and curiosity. I, my parents told me, could be anything I wanted. All you have to do is set your mind to it and work hard. I knew, without a doubt, that I could be anything, even President. I didn’t want that one, by the way. What kind of sycophantic masochist wants that job? So all you have to do is will it to happen, work hard, and you’ll achieve your dreams. Somewhere between Santa and “just work hard”, we forgot to tell kids life doesn’t really work that way.
Generally, we ask kids to go to school, study, and figure out what they want to spend the rest of their lives doing before they graduate high school. Why? Well, how else will you know what to do in college? Aside from drinking, gaining weight, sleeping around and recreational drug use that is. Think rationally about that for a moment. At the age of 18, we expect hormonally and intellectually unbalanced teenagers to know how they want to spend the next fifty years of their lives. I’m not sure what the alternative is, but that, my friends, is a scary thought. I can’t even tell you, at 36, what I feel like doing next weekend.
Just work hard. Start at the bottom, work your way up the ladder, and you’ll be whatever you want. Never you mind the other guys and gals with their eyes on the same job. Pay no attention to those more intelligent than you. That lady over there is more talented than you? Stop whining, work hard and you’ll win anyway! The guy in the next cubicle is a Senator’s son? Pshaw, those connections mean nothing in your job at an investment banking firm, you are both on equal footing! The reality of life is such that we cannot all become whatever we want. Someone still has to haul the trash, be the middle manager, or sell the tractors. Just find a job you don’t hate.
Good job! You’ve made it as far as finding a job you can tolerate on a day-to-day basis. What next? What if you have the audacity, the wherewithal even, to want more? You want to be fulfilled by what you do! You, avid reader, demand that your job as a mobile paper shredder truck driver make a difference to the world around you! To that, I say, good luck.
Everyone has contradistinctive definitions of what a fulfilling job may be. To some, simply making money works. Others intrinsically desire power. The ways of finding fulfillment in life are innumerable. Still, what if you find yourself in a job, a career, that you show some skill in but still find yourself unfulfilled? The answer is simple: look elsewhere.
Don’t quit your job, leave your family, load the dog in the car and take off for the mountains. Instead, take a good look around and decide what is missing. Objectively assess your life and make changes when necessary. Don’t start loading the dog yet. I’m not talking about a mid-life crisis; buy a corvette and date a high school senior kind of changes. I’m talking about making sure you spend time with your spouse, show an interest in your kids, or volunteer. There are always organizations looking for volunteers to help, and it’s an easy way to feel better about your contribution to society.
We spend so much time and energy focusing on how to get ahead, finding the perfect job, buying the biggest house, and accumulating the best and newest stuff that we rarely realize we’ve missed one of the greatest joys in life: giving back. Find a nursing home, youth group, church, homeless shelter, animal shelter, or hospital that needs a hand. Be creative. Find what interests you, and explore ways of letting that interest benefit others. Personally, I’ve taught motorcycle safety courses and been a 4-H club leader. For a long time, I let my job define who I was, never understanding that it was just something I did. Now, my job is a means to an end. I provide for my family but I don’t need it to make society better. I can find other ways to do that.
It really is just that simple, and over-complicating life serves no purpose beyond hindering our journey to happiness. Once I had that epiphany, I understood what was missing. I need not make the world a better place. I simply had to make my small corner of it better. I can’t be exactly what I want, and that is an unrealistic expectation to place on anyone. Instead, I can try to be someone who finds fulfillment not by what I do for a living, but by how I live.