I have been giving advice to my adult children about their education and career choices based on all of my “failed” attempts. As I discussed my experiences with two of them yesterday, it made me realize that I am not even following my own advice!
I have spent quite a few years searching for jobs that make me happy. I have tried several different career paths and have three degrees – yet, I am still searching. I have a solid twenty more years that I could work, but I have this mentality that I need to hurry up and figure it out. I also have a tendency to gravitate towards jobs in fields that I am familiar with – science, teaching, office work, etc. I don’t even think about whether or not the job fits my lifestyle, my values or my beliefs. I usually jump into a job without analyzing whether or not it would really make me happy.
I grew up with parents from the baby boomer generation, who told me that a job is just a job and it’s called “work” for a reason. I took their philosophy on work to mean that it was a pipe-dream to have a job that would really make me happy, and that you’re just supposed to work in the same job for thirty years and then retire. By the way, most of the people I know who did that admit after-the-fact that they hated their jobs, or, unfortunately, they died shortly after retiring. Either way, it’s not a happily-ever-after scenario.
After quitting another unsatisfying job recently — because, yes, I had jumped into another office job in an attempt to start a “career earning money” — I had to take a deeper look at what I am doing with my life. It can be demoralizing to leave a job, and it definitely made me second-guess myself. After many trips to the beach (my happy place), long walks, and meditations, I started to realize that I haven’t really failed at jobs, but I did rush into things without thinking deeply about them first.
I have had moments of clarity during my soul-searching days, and with hindsight I can see I was rushing the process. I know it should not be about diving into a set career path and more about about discovering my passion, which takes time. Every time I rush into a degree program or take a job that I am not passionate about, I end up regretting it.
But, how do I discover what I am passionate about, and how does my passion translate into something that can be a fulfilling career? I have some ideas about what I like, but not what I can do with it. For now, I am going to be at peace with just exploring things I like to do and developing those ideas further.
Today, as I look through my photos to see which ones I want to add to my blog post, I noticed that I have thousands of sunset pictures from every place I have visited. Some are quick shots from my cell phone and some are from my Nikon camera.
Seeing this many sunset photos on my computer got me thinking about discussions with my daughter and daughter-in-law this week about their jobs and classes their are taking. I told both of them to find what makes them happy and to go with their gut. Neither of them has to figure this all out today. I told them about my many attempts to follow a career path just because family members or friends were doing it, and I thought it would be a guaranteed way to make money. I think this is the same reason that my daughter-in-law keeps trying different careers. She is going with what is familiar to her, but it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with her passion.
I think that finding your passion is key to living a long, satisfying life. Yet, my brain tells me that is not all that is needed to be successful. I have had formal training, attended seminars, and read books and articles about a purpose-driven life, leading me to believe that another key to a happy life is to find purpose. I believe that if I can develop ideas from what I am passionate about and that are purposeful, I will be much happier.
So, where do I go from here? I know I need to start living life to the fullest, enjoying every moment. I need to start listening to my own advice and focus — practice mindfulness — on things that make me feel happy. Just as I told my daughter about a recent job she was contemplating leaving, if a job makes me cringe or I dread going to it, then I know it is not right for me.
I take comfort in seeing current news articles about thousands of others quitting their jobs. A lot of us are starting to see that life is too short and it is not worth getting stuck in a rut, working a purposeless job that elicits no passion or joy.
Today, I take a piece of my own advice, and start focusing on living a mindful, purpose-driven, joyful life. I will continue my journey for discovering my passion and taking paths that lead to a fulfilling life.