Here’s how to avoid common mistakes and overcome myths about the “perfect job.”
If you ask people if their job has become harder over the last few months, many might say yes. The challenges of our current events have caused some rough career waters. Many of us are trying to figure out how to navigate the pressures of work while teaching kids, working from a home office, or dealing with tighter budgets and few clients.
But even before the COVID times, it’s likely that many people would say their jobs were challenging or that they weren’t getting fulfillment from work. There are quite a few people out there who don’t feel satisfied with their career—but is it the job or the mindset?
It doesn’t matter if it’s pandemic times, boom times, or bust times, there are still plenty of misconceptions to be made and work through. Whether you love your job, hate your job, or feel “so-so,” learning from these common mistakes can help you discover a sense of purpose no matter what you do!
Stop Believing the Myth
One of the biggest career myths is, “follow your bliss.” People say, “my bliss is when I’m writing poetry or playing music,” or “my bliss is when I’m in a creative role.”
Every role is creative. Bliss is available all the time at every moment. If you want to find your bliss, you don’t need to search high and low. You need to find a way to discover it wherever you are in whatever you’re doing. Those who are happiest in their career have learned how to be happy no matter what they’re doing.
There’s a little parable about two kids in a room full of horseshit. One of the kids goes in, and he says, “No way! Get me out of here! This is terrible.” He’s the pessimist.
The other kid goes into the room and starts shoveling excitedly. When asked why he’s so happy to be shoveling, he says, “With all this horseshit, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”
The difference between the pessimist and the optimist isn’t the situation. It isn’t that there’s less to shovel in the room. It’s how they see the potential of a positive outcome. Some people find the positive potential in every single endeavor. It doesn’t matter if someone else is involved, if the job is difficult, or not their “bliss.” They find their bliss.
When we look for happiness to come from an activity outside of ourselves, we’re dependent on outside factors—someone or something else—to give us happiness. We’re not taking responsibility for finding our own happiness. This shift of responsibility happens in relationships (“he doesn’t make me happy”) in life, (“if I get that new car, I’ll be happy”) and in our careers (“if my boss gave me a promotion, I’d be happy”). We’re waiting for someone else to hand us our bliss.
Now it isn’t so easy to follow our bliss in every situation. Following our bliss is a very high-level skill, but it’s critical for finding joy and fulfillment. Bliss is the essence of our aliveness. But most of us mistake “escaping challenges” for happiness.
Bliss isn’t the absence of challenges. It’s not the empty room. It’s the room full of horseshit and the shovel! Contentment is found in the challenges.
If we really want to follow our bliss, we need to learn to become fully alive everywhere. Being fully alive means being fully engaged—going all in, no matter what we do. In any task or situation, we’ll find our bliss when we throw ourselves in the game.
Another common approach to finding the right career was articulated in the Richard Nelson Bolles book, “What Color is Your Parachute?” A parachute is what I use to escape a burning plane. The title came from a business meeting when Bolles announced his departure from a failing company. A coworker told him he was bailing out, and he joked, “What color is your parachute?”
Many people view retirement as the only escape from a job they dislike. They treat their career as suffering, dreaming of the day when they’ll leave. But this mentality really says that I’m a victim in life and it’s doing things to me. It takes away control. By the time I’ve put my nose to the grindstone and earned enough to retire, I’ve lost the pleasure in life.
So we get to retirement and drink, play golf, go from opera to opera, but never finding that satisfaction I’m seeking. There’s no reason not to enjoy every moment of our career. There’s no reason to wait for retirement, only to find retirement doesn’t bring us the satisfaction we were seeking.
It’s incumbent on us to see life as “earth school.” Every moment brings challenges, and every challenge brings the opportunity to learn, grow, and step into more and more of who we are. Life is an expansive adventure of applying ourselves to learning and growing. It’s our JOB to engaging fully wherever we are.
Now, you may think, “but what if I’ve gone as far as I can in my career? What else can I do? I don’t see anywhere else I can go.”
This sentiment often leads to another career mistake. When people are dissatisfied, they don’t tell their boss! It may sound like a crazy suggestion, but what makes more sense? Bring it up with the boss and risk a difficult conversation that will ultimately lead to better results? Or ignore the problem and go out in the job market to find a whole new livelihood?
Instead, come back to the present. Get in the game until something else happens. When we reach this point, there are three things that happen. The more we start telling the truth and engaging in our career, it will either begin conforming to us in a satisfactory way, my boss will fire me and liberate me to find something better, or the universe will reach out and pull us into something else.
When we talk about the concept of the existential developmental approach to work, it’s all about engaging in ways that lead to learning and growth. Existential means who I am in this moment of my existence. Developmental means the way I’m engaging in life—learning, growing, and getting more out of what I’m doing. It’s not about escaping with a parachute, but diving in and engaging more fully.
Engagement is the secret to feeling more alive. The existential developmental model helps us understand that this is how life can be—we can feel fulfilled and satisfied. We can learn, grow, and discover a more profound sense of purpose. We can live more fully and become even more alive than we are today.
My Boss is a Jerk
Now, inevitably we discuss the existential developmental career model, someone pipes up and says, “Yeah, but you don’t understand. My boss is a REAL jerk.”
It may be 100% true. There are a lot of jerks in the world. But so what? Having a boss who’s a jerk presents us with an opportunity to learn to deal with jerks. We can either learn from the experience or use jerks as an excuse to stay the victim. How much more empowering is it when we find out how to deal with jerks? Think about when we learn to speak to jerks and find our voice.
So many people find their voice and backbone after they’ve decided to quit a job. But what if they had been mouthy the entire time? Would life be uncomfortable? Darn right! But they would learn and grow more. They’d learn to speak effectively, establish better rapport, get what they want, and become a team leader.
At Wright Graduate University, we coach transformational leaders to help them become better leaders in charge of their own lives. When we take control of our lives, we can help others get in charge of their lives too. In doing so, we maximize human potential.
Some people spend their entire careers feeling like victims and wanting to be rescued. They live with regrets—if only they’d gotten the promotion if only they’d had a different boss, if only they’d chosen a different career, or gone to school for a different degree.
There are too many people who begin marking time to the end of their careers. That’s no way to live. It’s a way to exist, and it’s a choice, but it’s not a way to find satisfaction or maximize their potential.
To bring it back to our present circumstances—many of us are working from home, we may feel untethered and overwhelmed. Whether our career is at a break or going through a rocky patch, we may think we don’t want to go back to what we did before.
But rather than focusing on “not going back,” what if we focus on how we can use this time to transform, learn, and grow? What if we used this time to work harder and to maximize our effort in our job? In many ways going back is impossible anyway, but if we view our goal as to avoid going back, we won’t find the creative ways to move forward. We can come out of this time of crisis or challenge with a more robust career and even more satisfaction.
To learn more about taking your career to the next level of engagement, join us for our courses and webinars on WrightNow. We offer an array of fascinating workshops and growth-oriented lessons to help you discover greater potential and get more satisfaction out of life.