Passion, meaning, purpose, fulfillment etc. – all words that have haunted me for at least the last 10 years of my working life. Why? It seems like everywhere I go, everywhere I read, these are the words that in some way we should be able to use to describe the work/career aspect of our lives. That’s right – it’s all about doing something we love, doing something that gives us purpose and fulfillment, doing something meaningful. And the real doosie: it should be our PASSION!
That’s all well and good, but it also seems to be extremely difficult to attain. For me, work has mostly been something I do to earn money. Maybe it’s the way I grew up or was raised, but to me, a job involved being realistic and practical. It wasn’t supposed to be fun; it was something you did to make money. Passion? What passion? There has rarely been any “passion” involved. Sure, I’ve enjoyed some jobs more than others, but I can’t think of one job I’ve had that I would consider particularly meaningful – at least not to me. In my younger years, it hadn’t really bothered me too much. As long as I had extra money for the things I liked to do (like travel and go to concerts), I was okay with the daily grind of going to work to simply earn a paycheck. But as I’ve gotten older, there’s been this constant nagging feeling that what I do every day should have more meaning behind it. In addition, the internet is flooded with articles about following your passion and discovering your ideal career.
With ideas like this in my head; well, I’ll be honest – I’ve been miserable. Each day at work felt pointless. I would count the hours until I could go home and do the things I really loved; like reading, writing, taking long walks, riding my bike, growing plants, etc. I love life itself, but this idea that I needed to be passionate about my work left me feeling depressed. Most of my jobs have involved accounting in some way, shape or form. This is something I’m good at, but it’s certainly not something I’m passionate about, nor is it something I find particularly fulfilling. Even so, I had resigned myself to it. Counting beans was just something I did, so that in my free time I could do the other things that I love to do.
So, it was with a sense of real relief that I stumbled across an article on Forbes that put a whole new spin on the idea of finding fulfillment at work. While grammatical errors are a pet peeve of mine (I wonder if even the author himself had read this over), the article itself put forth an important message: “stop thinking you need to find fulfillment from your day job”. Here’s an excerpt:
“But, here’s a benefit. The moment you stop thinking you need to find fulfillment from your day job, you are going to be at least somewhat happier. No, nothing about the job will have changed, but your attitude about it will. You will no longer expect that your day job to provide you with fulfillment. That’s a small step in the right direction. It’s totally within your reach and it costs you nothing”
What an idea! This goes against everything I’ve been reading and thinking, and you know what? I love the idea! It has made me feel much more relaxed and at ease than I was before. Here’s what I take away from it: I think for some people it’s achievable and they really do find work that they are passionate about. Good for them! If you’re in that group, you are a very lucky person. Then there’s the rest of us. Maybe we are good at something, it earns us money, it keeps us busy, and it’s at least tolerable. BUT it’s not “fulfilling”, it doesn’t involve any one of our passions, and getting up in the morning to do it doesn’t exactly thrill us. If that’s the case, then I think what needs to be done is this: we need to focus on what our passion or passions are and still make sure they are a big part of our life. Just because we aren’t completely fulfilled at work, doesn’t mean we can’t feel that way outside of work. We must still focus on our passions because they are what make us who we are, and they are what makes us happy and gives us purpose. For example, if writing is a passion of yours, continue to set aside time to write – even if it’s during a break, or here and there on weekends or after work. Continue to do the things that motivate you outside of work. If our personal life is fulfilling, that feeling will spill over into our professional lives; especially if the pressure is off in trying to find what isn’t there at our jobs.
And who knows what may happen if we continue to explore and get better at our true purpose!