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Is Your Job Sucking the Life Out of You?

April 26, 2023

Do you look forward to your summer vacation? It’s time away from “work.” A chance to enjoy yourself. Are you getting most of your joy away from work?

Do you envy your friends who enjoy their work, or even thrive at what they are doing? They don’t need their vacations to recharge. Why isn’t that you?

If you find more joy in vacation than work, you aren’t alone.

Think back to summer school vacations. Images of fun and play are frequently linked to this time of year. I looked forward to summer vacation as time away from the responsibilities of school when I got more say over what I wanted to do. In my mind, school is what I had to attend and I had to do work the teachers decided was important. All of it was designed by adults to prepare me for the coming responsibilities of adulthood. There was rarely much choice in this pattern, so I developed coping strategies to survive the school year to get to summer!

Many of us have since substituted “Work or Job” for “School.” We are approaching work similarly to how I described my general approach to school. It’s something we must attend, doing work our managers tell us is important so we can have money for a short summer vacation.

Is it any wonder you are feeling lost, bored, or burdened by your work and the only bright spot in your year is your vacation time? We were trained for twelve (school) years to accept this pattern. Going to work because we must and doing work that someone else says is important is not questioned.

Then you hear about someone who “Loves” their job. Or they tell you the secret to a happy life is “Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” Where in your schooling or work training were you taught or encouraged to do what you love?

Many Chances to Do What We Love...When on Vacation

We got more opportunities to do what we loved during summer vacation. Our training led us to accept that vacation time is for doing what we loved, and school/work time is for doing what someone else deems important. So when we hear, “Do what you love as your job and you will never work a day in your life,” we immediately think about what we want to do on vacation and can’t see how to make a living doing that.

Berklee College of Music in Boston attracts students who wish to have their music be their profession. These people are gifted with an ability to create and produce music. They are intent upon succeeding and most will need to supplement their incomes with non-musical jobs as they build their following.

Others find the joy they experience from music is not connected to the music people wish to buy. The activity to create for compensation is typically different than what is done for personal satisfaction. The same thing can be true for the math wizard in high school, discovering life in mathematics or programming to be different from what they enjoyed from working a calculus problem.

If what we are good at is not universally reliable as a guide for a satisfying job, what is? It’s not “what” but “where” to look. If our sole or primary criteria is based upon the grade or judgment we receive from others, we are relying solely upon external guidance, which is inherently incomplete. We need to adjust our decision-making process to go beyond the external guidance – to also include our internal experience.

Some of us learned to ignore our thoughts and feelings, believing the external perspective was of greater value. External perspectives in the business of careers are important so we can understand what people are willing to pay. Jobs are posted in terms of the skill needed or result to be produced – details that can be understood by the public. This is outcome-centric.

The idea that the final achievement is enough ignores the effort and activities required to produce that result. Outcomes and achievements are moments in time. The top sales performer is identified when the books are closed at the end of year. That grand accomplishment does not carry over to the following year. So, if achievement is the primary source of joy, you get to celebrate that achievement during the Christmas break before you need to start all over again.

Create Sustained Happiness

Sustained happiness is found in our experience of the tasks and activities required for our jobs. Identifying those activities that we enjoy doing, those that lift us up, and those that feel rewarding unto themselves, are crucial and they are the activities only we can identify for ourselves. No one else has enough information and insight than we do as individuals. If we rely on public opinion, we will find ourselves in jobs that slowly suck our energy, leaving us looking forward to our next vacation to have some joy.

If you want help finding the job you love, consider my Get More From Your Job series to start building that life you love.