I read this article today and had to sound off. There are many good points in the article, but it seems to have been written with such a defeatist slant. Well, don’t be defeated.
- The economy is bad right now. That means there is less job mobility. Fine. but what about the mobility into entrepreneurship? In 2009, at the peak of the recession, entrepreneurship was at its highest rate in the past 14 years. That could be out of necessity if people couldn’t find jobs. But maybe people were forced into creating their own opportunities. I’m not saying that being an entrepreneur is the fast-track to a happier life. You have to work a lot harder, actually. But an entrepreneur usually starts a business to pursue a passion. That’s good.
- “There is growing evidence that our thirst to find happiness, especially during tough economic times, is actually bumming us out.” Thirst is a powerful motivator. Could it be true that the thirst is always there, but tough economic times are like a drought that just exacerbate our thirst?
- “Sometimes, a job may simply be a way of making money rather than a way to be happy, but there are always things that one can do to make the experience more pleasant.” I would never advocate apathy. But I agree that for some people it is just healthier to see their job as a source of income. You can have a happy and fulfilling life while working at a job you don’t like. In some ways I think it takes even more mental gymnastics skills to divorce your emotions from career ambitions. If you are happy with your life otherwise, then yes, maybe sticking with a job you have no passion for is fine. More power to you. But I can’t do that and I think most people can’t.
- “The Internet has only made matters worse for some because job seekers can readily see a host of often-unattainable jobs on job boards that sound so much better than what they have.” The grass is always greener on the other side. Instead of fretting over unobtainable jobs, focus on building the skills that will make you most valuable and most impactful in the line of work you want to be in.
In the end, your career probably shouldn’t be the most important thing in your life.But for many people it is. And there is nothing wrong with striving to maximize your career’s meaning. It goes back to having a purpose in life. At the same time, the core message of the meaning of life was to be happy with what you have.
Maybe I am naïve, but I still firmly believe that you can align your career with your own pursuit of happiness. It just depends on what you want out of life. I hope you want that alignment because I think the world would be a better place if you are passionate and enthusiastic about what you’re doing 40 hours/week!
In my case, I have had two very different careers after graduating from college – first as an oil field engineer working on oil rigs and then as a business development specialist in wind power. I get bored easily and seek constant challenges. That’s why I designed The Happy Nomad Tour to be a rapid succession of challenges, opportunities to make a difference, and learning opportunities.
Maybe I am just another pawn in this impossible game of being happy with one’s career. But I can say with certainty that if I had continued working and being miserable in the oil industry I would have been financially stable and “successful” in the eyes of others, yet my zest and passion for life would have completely gone down the toilet. I would have become docile, probably to the point of dependency on my job/career to define who I am. That isn’t the life I want.
So to answer the question, no, I don’t think career happiness and satisfaction is a myth. It can be achieved, but it takes a lot of work. It may require a lot of self-discovery, drastic changes, or an unconventional lifestyle. But I think it’s worth it in the end. I hope you do too!
Please sound off in the comments section and share your thoughts about this controversial topic!