A Better Career – A Better Life
I’ve noticed a disturbing pattern developing amongst many people who feel trapped in office culture. It’s a pattern that combined an unhealthy dose of complacency, complaining, and a hint of anger. Mix those wonderful traits together with a touch of depression and you have your classic case of burnout: someone who cannot stand their job and the stress it creates but dreams of greener pastures.
The difference between people who actually escape their dreadful jobs into a better life and those who are stuck for years, even decades on end looking at what “could be” or worse, “what could have been”, may just be that the former camp has a greater sense of self-awareness combined with a drive to make a difference.
The Dilemma of the Dreamer
Some of us are dreamers. We look beyond the shades of white and manila and envision ourselves doing something meaningful and exciting. We want to soar, dance, create, build, travel, and do anything else that we are passionate about. Anything but this. But passion is a “muscle” and if it isn’t exercised and fed, it will atrophy. If you continually throw yourself into the same dead-end job for years on end and refuse to use your strengths and skills, your passion will die off and you’ll forget what you really love to do.
It is far more dangerous to enter the “I hate it here and want to do anything but this” camp than it is to try something new and realize that it isn’t for you.
Let me make this clearer: the opposite of “being trapped” is not “being free.”
The opposite of being trapped is living passionately.
So as you sit in that awful dead-end job that you suffer through just to make ends meet just to pay the bills, don’t look for an escape. Look to yourself. First, ask yourself what you’d rather be doing. Brainstorm some ideas and then ask yourself the following two questions: Is it realistic? Is it something you could enjoy?
If you cannot say yes to BOTH of these answers, then start over.
A good path isn’t perfect. There is no such thing as a dream job or dream life that is completely free of stress. It doesn’t exist. What does exist is a better place for you, and a place that is worth working to get to.
I’ll give you an example from my own life. For a long time I took a lot of useless dead-end jobs that did not utilize my skills and strengths at all. They were terrible office-drone jobs that were for people who are detail-oriented, like to talk on the phone, like to work in stuffy environments, like to multi-task and need direction.
Funny. I hate talking on the phone, hate multi-tasking, and hate being told what to do. I like autonomy, working with fun people and being creative. I’m project oriented.
So why did I do these awful drone-jobs for 3 years? Excuses. Here were some that I gave:
- I need the money
- I’m “working on a way out”
- I can’t find any good work with a BA in Psychology
- The working world is awful
- I’d rather find a way out of the working world and create my own income
- I never have enough free time to create my way out
These are all excuses. For years I toiled in awful jobs because my passion had atrophied. I pretty much forgot about who I was and what I was good at because I was so focused on what I hated, what I DIDN’T want, and what was wrong.
I’m not totally sure what caused it. It could have been just a tough time in my life combined with a fear that I wasn’t good enough to make it far professionally. Maybe it was a sense of entitlement. I might have figured that because I was smart, I didn’t have to work as hard or that it would all come to me. When I learned quickly that life didn’t work this way, I started hiding behind my excuses.
Whatever the reason was, I ended up in a bad place.
I eventually found my way out of this mess not by escaping to freedom, or quitting yet another terrible dead-end job, or starting a “miracle money-making business,” but by examining what I was really good at. I examined the skill sets that were in demand in the world and made a compromise with myself. Since I consider myself to be a creative person, and I’ve enjoyed writing and developing this site, I made the decision to go back to school and learn web design and multimedia development.
Many designers are self-employed, at least in part (something I love). They have a creative profession, they are autonomous, and there is a big demand for web designers though it’s a competitive field. The pay is something I definitely can live with. I can use my writing skills if need be, and advertise any other business ventures I can come up with. It’s a highly flexible career. But most importantly, it is something I feel I’ll be good at, because I used to do similar activities as a kid.
Emphasize the Positive
Making a major change in your professional life can be difficult. It was for me. I’m even doing something that I don’t advocate doing unless absolutely necessary – going into debt and taking out loans. But I have a good reason for it. I’m developing myself as a human being and going after something I’ll be good at.
Change can be a scary, difficult thing. But real change comes when you examine yourself honestly and ask yourself how much longer you want to go on being miserable.
The easy path is to quit and take another bad job, starting the cycle over again.
The true path is to focus on what you want to do, what you’d be good at, and how you can realistically make it work for you.
Then go after it with all you have.
Getting Fired is GoodAugust 18th, 2008
Job Comparisons: Before and AfterMarch 4th, 2008
When No Job FitsDecember 13th, 2007
A Better Career – A Better LifeDecember 10th, 2007
I Lost My Day JobNovember 9th, 2007
abc123 December 11, 2007 at 7:22 pm
This is by far your best posts yet.
Wendy December 12, 2007 at 5:09 am
Loved this post. Thanks for your candor. And yes, it really hit home. Very powerful and moving.
escapee December 12, 2007 at 7:19 am
great post! I think you’re doing the right thing by going back to school (even with the loans)- because you are learning something that really interests you. I think that’s a wise investment.
Mike December 12, 2007 at 4:11 pm
I have always viewed education is a good investment if you know what you are going to do with it/are determined to learn. Too many young people go to school just because it’s the “next thing to do” and then end up in a tough situation…
Jackie February 17, 2008 at 3:11 am
I am glad I found this post. This weekend I have had a revelation!
I have been temping for the last 4 years under the guise that it gives me “freedom”
I do it because I have an absolute phobia about being stuck in a permanent job that I hate. With being a temp their is usually a limit to how long the “pain” has to go on for.
I can move on and start again.
But actually I have realised this weekend that actually its not a very satisfactory way of living, and If I am truthful to myself I will NEVER be happy in the workplace.
And as you have suggested, you have to look at yourself and what you are good at.. in otherwords look inward..for inspiration. Not outward at the next job..otherwise it will be an eternal search for something that doesn’t exist.
We are masters of our own destiny and captains of our soul..
Thank you for confirming that with your post.
Alex January 31, 2017 at 10:33 am
Better career + better boss = better life