A job is something you do to meet your survival needs, it is usually a means to an end, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The problem becomes when you want something different, something that aligns with your goals and gives you a sense of purpose. Frustration arises when you try to make your job into something it is not. The key here is acceptance of the limitations of your present job and developing goals and commitment to change the situation. There is a difference between a job and a career or vocational calling and as long as you are clear about what you are getting from your work and not expecting something your job is not, it usually works for you.
Being in a job that is frustrating and unsatisfying can, like any challenging relationship, be life threatening. What we know about health and well-being is that people who feel good about their careers and have a sense of purpose in life live longer and healthier lives.
I find it so interesting that when people are struggling to go to work every day that sometimes unseen forces conspire to make their job leave them. When we are aware of that feeling of dread when we think of going into work we can start to be more proactive and then maybe we can have control of the outcome. Sometimes the change is in recovering a sense of purpose in the job we are in and seeing it as a means to an end that helps us accept the limitations of the present situation.
It takes time and introspection to get in touch with our dis-ease with what we do for work. Maybe it is the management, maybe it is the structure or the lack of power to make a difference, maybe it is boring and unchallenging, maybe it is a toxic work environment with bullying and fractured work relationships or maybe it is all of the above. We could be just working too hard and have a lack of balance in our life. Remember all work and no play makes Jack or Jill pretty unhappy.
Work is a huge part of our psyche and work that is not aligned with who we are makes us feel disconnected. We also get a sense of belonging from our work. As our inner self grows and changes sometimes our work no longer is a fit. Our soul and inner spirit will recognize this disconnection and it will urge us to do something about it. Another issue that our inner self, soul or inner spirit recognizes is when we are not living up to our potential. Many people are in jobs that keep them underemployed and under challenged. They, for many reasons, have settled for a job or career that is not using their talents and is not aligned with who they are as a person. Their values are not reflected in their work situation.
One of the issues quite often is that they are so busy with life they have not spent the time getting to know who they are. There may be traumas or difficult life situations that obscure who the person really is and many of these are unaddressed and unhealed. Childhood experiences could have left them with mistaken beliefs that get in the way of knowing who they really are, their potential and get in the way of a satisfying career. Beliefs such as “I am not good enough” “I will never amount to anything”, “the world is a scary place and I will never be safe”, “people are untrustworthy”, “I am not likable, lovable etc.” I cannot take care of myself”.
My experience in helping people address some of these mistaken beliefs is that once they get to know their whole self and what gets in their way they are better able to make career choices that fit with who they are. Over time they are able to develop satisfying and financially comfortable careers.
With many people working into their 70’s and 80’s instead of retiring, staying at a job they are really unhappy with until retirement is only one of many choices people can make. Some people retire and then find a satisfying after-retirement career or they take on a volunteer position that gives them a purpose in life. Research is demonstrating that people that retire later live longer than those that retire early. It appears the difference just might be in having a purpose in life and enjoying what they do. It is never too late to love the work you do and have a fabulous, amazing career!!
Work is good for people. I think though, that it is better if they enjoy their work and feel fulfilled by it or if they don’t enjoy it work on changing the situation. Sometimes seeing it as a means to an end works too but spending up to 40 hours a week at work you don’t enjoy can really be a problem over time.
Finding a purpose in life is essential to health and well-being and work can do that for people. It is a simple proposition however it is not easy to do, for change is not easy because you need to take risks and that is scary. The familiar is comfortable and stepping into the unknown world of career change invites fear. With a great deal of good research and talking to other people, and getting support and help if you need it, the decision making becomes one that is informed. Some people jump into something they think they will like without background research and without really knowing themselves and the move becomes a disaster. They then give up their dream.
A career counsellor can help to sort out your choices, provide testing of your personality and interests, provide labor market information, and help you make an informed choice. Sometimes developing in the field you are in is the best choice or transitioning to another career works as well. Sometimes it requires formal education to get to the level that will make the career satisfying and it is never to late to do this. Research is indicating that older students have many resources and abilities to continue in their education and do well.
Above all it takes courage to address the deficits in your work and your career; it means taking risks and carefully analyzing what is not working for you; it takes getting to know yourself well and embracing the inner work that needs to happen; it might take getting less income for awhile; it requires time and energy and much work; and it requires accessing your support system and maybe professional help. The surprising thing that happens though is once you are committed life can take surprising turns and your new career can find you, however you must be able to recognize and take some of the opportunities that arise.
William Margaritis says it best:
“Persistence and passion are the ingredients to make dreams come true”.