I’m going to say something that may surprise you considering I’m a career coach. Are you ready for the best advice I can give you? You don’t have to love your job and no career choices are permanent.
You are allowed and encouraged to be fully and wholly fulfilled – even if you aren’t currently in LOVE with what you do.
What Do You Want to Do When You Grow Up?
Confused? Don’t worry. I used to be SO LOST on this and it’s confusing because our earliest experiences are influenced by society’s romanticization of work. As children we are asked what we want to “be” when we grow up. The normal answers to this are “ballerina”, “doctor” or another profession we’ve seen someone do and thought it looked cool. From our youngest years we are asked to start identifying ourselves based on primitive ideas of what we will do. We are asked to start picking potential professions and ways to make money before we even understand the system we will be working in.
Is Our Job Our Purpose?
Since we are being fed the idea that we have to contribute to society in an impactful way from a very young age it’s not surprising that we tie what we are meant to do with our lives as people to the job we choose to do. Capitalism is able to take advantage of the correlation between happiness, fulfillment and purpose to gaslight us into thinking our work is our main purpose. This culture convinces us that we live to work – when really a healthier mindset would be to work to live.
Purpose has a place but it doesn’t need to be present in the office. Positive psychological research shows that people who lead lives filled with purpose are less prone to depression. I believe that people need purpose – but our purposes do not have to be directly tied to our careers. We can have many purposes or motivations for things including our families, painting, crafting, enjoying nature, visiting elderly family members and helping others. Feeling dispassionate about your job is normal and in my opinion can be a healthier stance to take than overly involved. Why?
Romanticizing Capitalism and Work Gives Employers Power
By tying our purpose to our jobs employers maintain influence over how we feel about ourselves because of the influence they have on how we feel about work. I know I struggled with processing “bad” days at work and often brought the negative mindset I picked up in the workplace home with me. How many times have you made a mistake at work and went home worrying about it? Our work stress affects our sleep, mental health and it can affect our personal and professional relationships. We have to have hard boundaries if we want to prevent our employers from influencing our personal lives. Since our society romanticizes capitalism and hard work these boundaries can be hard to enforce. The first step is separating who we are from what we do. (I have a Patreon series about this for $5 – subscribe here to learn more)
Who Am I If I’m Not My Job or List of Accomplishments?
It doesn’t surprise me at all that myself and my clients STRUGGLE to come up with our identities outside of what we do. We are so much more than what we do for a living. Yet, the first narratives we are taught about ourselves are around what we will do to “contribute” to society (capitalism).
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
Much like that quote attributed to John Lennon – I think a lot of us don’t understand the question.
When we finally grow up, go to school, pick that career path and start working towards whatever way we’ve decided to contribute, we trap ourselves.
By only having one end goal we limit the opportunities we take. And by believing capitalism’s lie that our identities are directly tied to our jobs we end up feeling disappointed by our careers when they are lackluster or lack the glamour we dreamed of.
In short, we’ve let capitalism romanticize work. And it’s led us into a world where we are afraid that there’s something wrong with us because we don’t love every moment or what we do everyday. We worry that there is something missing because we don’t have “dream jobs”. I for one, do not dream about working. I LOVE what I do and I LOVE helping people but I do not dream of all the paperwork involved in running a business, I do not dream of the boring stuff or the off days and THAT IS TOTALLY NORMAL.
You Don’t Have to LOVE What You Do Everyday
Our BFF capitalism and our corporate workplace cultures feed us the narrative that if we don’t love what we do we must be awful at our jobs or miserable people or there’s something wrong with us. There is nothing wrong – you just don’t enjoy trading your time for money. That’s totally fair.
And when we finally get into these dream roles and hate them or feel unsatisfying we let ourselves get STUCK. Buried under the narrative of how hard it was to get there we decide we would rather stay miserable then try something new. And there’s nothing wrong with that if you feel fulfilled in your life. But if you don’t, or your boss sucks or you’re on a career path and want to get out – you are allowed and encouraged to strategically gtfo (it’s part of what I do – sign up for a free discovery call here).
What keeps us stuck? The fear of starting over. The fear of hating the next thing too. And when we fall victim to this we prevent ourselves from trying something new. You don’t always have to take new opportunities but it’s ok to look for them.
Let’s Stop Dreaming of Work
In conclusion, there is nothing wrong with you if your life dreams don’t revolve around work. It is ok to stay at a job you tolerate because you like the money and don’t want to change (and if you struggle with this setup a career confidence session with me so we can put space in between you and what you do). It is ok to leave a job that you’ve spent years working towards (but please work with me and make a plan before jumping into the job market). It’s never too late to make a change and you’re allowed to feel dispassionate and annoyed about having to work.
TLDR: Stop letting people shame you for not loving your job and stop feeling trapped in your career.