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How to know what is right for you?

May 13, 2021
Four years ago, I remember thinking about the offer in front of me as well as the list of tasks for my clients. At the heart of my pondering was a choice: To continue doing what I was doing for another 5-10 years or accept the offer to leave my job and the company with a bonus package.

After 20 years, do I accept my proverbial gold watch, or continue grinding for the foreseeable future? On one hand there was the excitement and uncertainty of what I would do with my job. On the other is to envision the future doing what I was doing for another five years and the uncertainty that would be part of that choice.

Two futures, both with uncertainties and one substantial difference. The option to stay in my job was the choice most familiar to me. I know what I needed to do, and the question would be how long I would be allowed to do this job. The alternative option was more of an idea or possibilities. Really the idea of leaving my job was still a dream. The risk electing this option was in picking the unknown and betting on myself to start something new.

The dream and the future possibilities looked far more exciting to me for I envisioned the successes and the fun that path would offer. Continuing with my current job had more of the feeling of being a slog. Choosing purely on the emotional reaction to each would make the selection of the retirement an easy winner. One suggestion for living a life you love is the trope “do what you love.” In this context selecting retirement would align to this guidance. However a part of being “happy” included making some money. Would the dream and excitement of what retirement could be, be enough for my happiness?

Are you really considering an Apples-to-Apples comparison?

For others facing a similar choice, be it a retirement offer, or for those of you considering switching careers, there is more to include in the calculus used to choose. What is the life you will be living? What will I be doing each day of retirement? I knew what a day in the life of being a project manager would be and, as I wrote above, felt dreary. I would be worrying about my company’s decision about size of the department, participation in the market, and the decisions about staffing. There would be worry about my employment. The work I was being asked to do was as exciting as to me as the feeling I get when sweeping the kitchen floor.

The alternative option being considered was of pursuing a second career in retirement. This had all of the glamour because I was free to dream about any possibility. I had not moved this dream into something tangible. What would the experience be of living this dream? The real choice should be between what I know of my current job and what I think I will do to achieve the dream. What are the activities needed to create my own business? I knew conceptually what these activities would be, and I was also excited about the steps required to learn what they would be and believed I would be motivated to do this work. The potential to succeed in creating my own business was just as uncertain as predicting the future of my job. The comparison should be between what I would be doing for my current job and what I would need to do to pursue my dream. Tying my choice to what I envisioned the future to bring is often given more weight than these other factors.

If the objective is to choose for a life of happiness, focus should be more upon what you are doing with some understanding about where you are going. What I am going to do today in order to have the future become my reality should be the focal point of the decision. Not only am I biased toward the option that gives me joy, attention to what I am doing today can have me pay attention to what is required for me to be able to achieve my goal while living a life that I love. My reality is that I need to make money and, unlike the last ten years, also find what I will like doing to get there.

Remember, to have a life of sustained happiness, identifying something that gives you pleasure, that require effort to achieve, and has a sufficient purpose are the elements. Knowing yourself, being present to what energizes you, and commitment to succeeding in living a life that you love are the principles worth knowing. Reach out to me for a conversation and perspective about choices you are considering.