So many people dislike their jobs. I was talking with a friend the other day who was in this situation. He didn’t like what he was doing, but he was established at his company, and he made decent money. It was difficult for him to think about making a shift.
So many people struggle to figure out what they want to do with their life. I see this a lot in college students. There are so many different majors and career paths, it can seem daunting to narrow in on one thing. Students can become paralyzed, unsure of the right direction to go.
So many people get locked into a particular field or job because of outside pressures. For example, maybe you enjoy journalism, and you dream about being a news reporter someday. But your parents really want you to go to medical school and become a doctor. There’s a conflict. Do you follow your heart, or do you follow the expectations of your family?
One question I like to ask people when they are struggling with their work or career is this: What would you do if no one was watching? If you didn’t have to worry about making money, impressing people with your status, being cool, avoiding judgments, or meeting expectations… What would you do with your time? What would your day look like?
This can be a great question to ask because it gets to the heart of who you are as a person. Your answer to this question helps reveal your true, authentic self. Being able to express your true, authentic self is a gift. The more you are able to engage with your true, authentic self, the more happiness and meaning you will find in your career and life.
I want to give three caveats: First, letting go of all the external stuff is difficult. To a certain extent, we all crave money, status, and approval from others. But living your life for those external things is a bad deal. We think those things will make us happy, but they don’t. It’s like chasing the wind. Happiness and meaning come from getting in touch with our true, authentic selves, and then expressing that authentic self as much as possible.
Second, there may be real barriers that stop you from expressing your true self at all times on your job. Maybe you have three kids at home, and it doesn’t seem feasible to quit your bank job to become an artist. If this is your situation, you might have to get creative. For example, is there a way to shift your job tasks so that you get to utilize your artistic talents as much as possible? Perhaps you could talk this over with your boss, and see what opportunities are available.
Third, when you thought about the question of what you would do if no one was watching, you might have thought of something that didn’t immediately translate into a career. For example, one of the things I loved doing as a kid was collecting and trading baseball cards, and following the statistics of my favorite baseball players. Those activities don’t translate directly into my career, but I do use statistics in my research and writing. So there might be a way to translate the skill or activity you love into something that can be used in a career.
Discussion: How satisfied are you with your career? What would you do if no one was watching?