Studies have shown that more than half of the working population doesn’t enjoy what they do for a living. So they spend 40 – 60 hours per week feeling stressed out, drained, or bored in exchange for a steady paycheck and health benefits. If you have one of these jobs, or you’ve recently left one, you may wonder sometimes what it would take to find a job you really enjoy, and what it would feel like to be fulfilled and energized by your work.
Unfortunately we have so many pre-conceived notions about what it would take to build an ideal career that most people give up before they start. The biggest one is that doing work you love requires a big change in your current lifestyle: lots of risk and lots of sacrifice.
But there are many cases where just making a few small changes, like moving to a new organization, or making a slight change in your job duties, can make all the difference in the world. In other cases, you may be able to leverage your strengths and completely change industries or start a viable business without missing a beat.
Here are three ways to start the process:
1. Write a list of all the things you most enjoy.
After you have completed the list, brainstorm on jobs that might relate to each item. Go beyond the obvious. For example, if you enjoy art, look at things like event planning, advertising, or product design. Also, look at the art industry itself. How is art bought and sold? What roles require people to make decisions based on their understanding of art? What roles require people to draw and sketch in their daily activities? Really get out of the box and ask others for crazy ideas if you get stuck. Sometimes the barrier is that you can only see the one path that involves risk and sacrifice. If you can see several alternative paths, they may be at least worth investigating.
2. Go beyond the surface question of what job would make you happy.
Ask yourself the deeper question: what is it about the things you love that make you happy? For example, most of my clients will say they love travel. But when we think about why, their answers reveal more important insights. Some clients love to travel because it’s the only time they feel free to relax and live in the moment. Others love to experience different cultures. If you love music, ask yourself what it is about how you live with music that is different from how you currently live at work. Do you express yourself differently? Do you manage time differently? Do you manage interruptions differently?
3. Have conversations with people in a wide variety of professions, and learn what their experiences are.
You may find people in jobs that are similar to yours, but in a completely different environment. You may find people making a good income in ways you’ve only dreamed of, who are very willing to share their story. The more conversations you have, the more you will learn “what’s out there”, and the better perspective you will have on your own position. Sometimes we get so immersed in our current situation that we forget that there are other ways of living and working. Getting exposed to these diverse perspectives empowers you to see new possibilities for yourself.
It only takes a few hours in your spare time to think about these questions and talk to different people. You may confirm for yourself that there is no easy way to make a change. But what if you discover some new ideas or options? If it IS possible for you to spend those same 40 – 60 hours each week feeling fulfilled and engaged, would it be worth your time to find out about it?