How to be happy with your job or career?

As a big fan of Cal Newport’s philosophy on work, I believe that the idea of the ‘perfect job’ on the horizon we dream about is often a myth.

One of the reasons this phenomenon of the “dream job’ exists is the culture surrounding work, which comes from the US. Your identity is tied to what you do, and therefore, what you do is you.

There is a range of personality types, so the manifestation of this problem differs based on our inclinations. Idealistic types suffer from the idea of a ‘mission’ that needs to be accomplished for the greater good or to satisfy ‘customers’ at all costs. Materialistic types see the financial incentives coming with promotions and overtime. Once they acquire the things of their dreams, they will surely be satisfied. Of course, for most of us, there is some ratio of both.

This leads us to the inner battle of incentives. Only if we have the perfect job with the perfect financial outcome will we be happy.

It turns out that nothing like an objectively perfect job exists. Imagine you have a fixed idea that, for example, saving sea turtles is the ultimate job that gives you all you long for. This idea might come from some article you read in your childhood, or you might have a relative who works in a similar industry, and your family always talks nicely about the person.

With a great deal of work, you end up in this industry, saving turtles, ignoring much of the inner voice of your desires. Everyone around you is happy. For some time, you were too, because how could you not? However, sooner or later comes the feeling of creeping emptiness.

First, you will have plenty of arguments about why your feelings do not make sense because you do the best thing possible. As time goes on, the pressure will eventually burst into strong emotions of some type. Depending on how long you managed to keep it under the lid,

Once you give some space to your thoughts and emotions, you might realize you never wanted to save turtles in the first place. You were always interested in cars and engineering. You loved to learn how the engine works and how you can squeeze more performance out of it.

That’s it! This sparks joy right out of the gate.

This person above might end up in the engineering department of some company, improving the efficiency of various parts and therefore saving fuel, costs, and maybe some sea turtles.

What does this all mean?

There is no objective ‘right’ thing to do. To have a fulfilling work life, we need to have a sense of agency. That is the opposite of deriving our meaning from the surrounding noise. We need to carefully inspect whether our intentions are ours. How do we do that? Read more on this topic here (TBD).

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