Time for a gut check. Do you like what you do?
You get up each morning and get ready for your day — what’s that like? Are you eager? Procrastinating? Measured? Rushed? Let me ask you this: Are you happy at the prospect of going to work?
I imagine there’s someone reading this right now who scoffs at the very idea. “Michele,” this person wants to say, “work is work. You’re not supposed to like it! Work’s just something you do to pay the bills and get financial security so someday you can retire and do whatever you daggone well please.”
Hmmn. So, let me get this straight. I am supposed to work for forty years at a job I detest just so I can retire and get the freedom I postponed? How in the world does this make sense?
But it’s a widely held view. And it governs us in so many ways.
A friend lamented that her teenage son has no drive. No ambition. No idea of what he wants to do. He isn’t interested in getting a summer job. My friend is contemplating grounding him unless he finds a job, any job. Doesn’t matter what he does, just as long as he works.
“Why do you think he doesn’t want to work?” she asked. Maybe it’s because all he hears is his mom and his dad complaining about their own jobs. He looks at his father and sees a man who misses games, and assemblies, and sports banquets because of the demands of his job. Who’s distracted and on his Blackberry when he is home. Maybe he sees a mom who’s frazzled and frantically juggling all the family elements that make up the boy’s entire universe — school, home, sports, friends.
With this kind of role model around work, who would want to get a job?
The secret to being happy is this: do more of what you like and are good at, and do less of what you dislike — even if you are good at it. I, for example, dislike spreadsheets. Especially spreadsheets regarding historical spending, actual spending and proposed spending. They give me a headache. However, despite the pounding in my head, I am good at deciphering those kinds of spreadsheets and can be an active participant in discussions about them.
However, if I had a job that was solely spreadsheets, I’d be a morose blob of bleah.
I know a woman who is an accountant and has been at the same job for fifteen years. She goes in each day, does her work, goes home. It’s a blob of bleah. She knows she’s not really happy, but she’s competent and that’s all work is about, right? When you probe, you find out that what she’d really like to do is teach. The idea of teaching math to kids makes her whole face light up. But, she’ll tell you, how could she possibly take the pay cut?
And, I ask: What’s the price of being happier?
Maybe not as much as you think. It’s a funny thing. When you start to do more of what you love, so much shifts. Time and time again, I have seen people take a “pay cut” and live richer lives. Either they find they need less than they thought, or they find that their priorities shift and needing that expensive suit, that keeping-up-with-the-Joneses vacation, that nifty sports car — just not important. Those “things” were only used to fill the gap that happiness now fills.
Or they find that they get paid more than they ever expected. They get salary increases, and bonuses. If they own their own business, clients flood in. Why? Because they are on fire about doing what they love. People who are passionate about what they do attract business and opportunities.
Wouldn’t you recruit a teacher that all the students, parents and faculty adored? Wouldn’t you want an accountant who found beauty and joy in numbers? Wouldn’t you hire a coach who loves what she does?
Work doesn’t have to be a four letter word. When you live a life of your own design — doing what you love and are good at — you’ll find that even work feels like fun. And each day is a joy. And your kids can’t wait to get a summer job.