Updated: May 2
A lot of people have an extremely hard time finding fulfillment in life, but a lot of us also work at places like McDonald's and Denny's. That isn't to say that we should be ashamed of working at these places. They serve as occupational milestones in our lives. I've worked at a number of retail chains just to make ends meet, and I'm likely to work at many many more.
But we also shouldn't settle for these jobs. We are hurting ourselves deeply when we do that. We should let them serve their purpose and leave as soon as we find something that is more in alignment with who we are. Even if it pays less, work somewhere that makes you feel alive. Forget about choosing a higher paying job that makes you feel like dirt.
What we should shoot for, no, the path we should follow, is the one that challenges us, the one that forces us to acknowledge that we are more than the paychecks we receive at the end of the week. No matter how big or small that paycheck may be, if we are following the path that suits us, then happiness, fulfillment and abundance will naturally follow suit.
Notice how I said path instead of job. The truth is, there is no single job that can give us this sense of well being. Any job by itself is merely a tool to be used to attain something of value; be it food, entertainment or a roof over our heads. But that's all it is. It keeps you on your feet, and it may help you to develop skills that you didn't have before, but unless you have a passion for what you are doing and you want to extend those skills into something else, something bigger, then it is just a tool. It is just a survival mechanism.
That's why it is so important to do your research. You have to find a career that makes you feel light on your feet on some days, and painfully insecure on others. When you are working towards a career that calls to you, you aren't just wading through an endless sea of promotions and demotions. It isn't just about the corporate climb where more skill and experience means more pay. When one delves into a career, not a corporate life sucking job, but a career, the journey itself will become an extension of who we are and what we want with our lives.
That's where the good stuff is. That's where the pain and the struggles along with success and glory mesh together to create a bright and shiny aperture through which the rest of the world can see us. When we climb using the ladders that we made with our own sweat, blood and tears, the climb will be that much sweeter. We won't feel cheated, because we will know exactly what we are working with.
And here's how to do it:
1.) Don't look for happiness. Look for meaning
That's right. Don't look for jobs because they are easy. Look for jobs specifically because they are hard and because they challenge you.
According to Emily Esfahani Smith, in her article titled, "In 2017, pursue meaning instead of happiness," "In a survey of over 2 million people in more than 500 jobs by the organization PayScale, those who reported finding the most meaning in their careers were clergy, teachers, and surgeons — difficult jobs that don’t always cultivate happiness in the moment, but that contribute to society and bring those doing them satisfaction."
That isn't to say that if you choose happiness, you can't have a meaningful life, or vice versa. Pleasure in fulfillment is a kind of gratification often manifested from a deep appreciation for life. That deep appreciation for life can only be felt when a person feels self-actualized in some form or another.
In other words, if you want to be truly happy and fulfilled, it's going to take a lot of hard work. It's going to take pain. It's going to take years and years of trial and error, failure and regret. You will only be cheating yourself if you actively avoid failure simply because you are afraid of it.
2.) Don't find your passion. Cultivate it
According to Ryan Chatterton, author of the article, "The ultimate secret to discovering your passion," it is impossible to find your passion, because your passion does not exist outside of you. It exists within you. In other words, you must realize it, not find it.
He explained how to cultivate our passions.
When we were young, we used to be fascinated by everything. Just watching the snow fall or listening to the way the lawnmower revved was enough to pique our curiosity. To find a career we love, Chatterton explains that we must delve into the adult world with this same sense of wonder.
He further goes on to explain, "This is where most of us get stuck, because we’re afraid to pick something “wrong.” But remember what Newport, [computer scientist and author of the book, Deep work], said: “There is no special passion waiting for you to discover.”
In other words, there isn’t a “wrong” choice because there isn’t a “right” choice, either.
Pick an interest and roll with it.
Don't just just go in with all the force of fire and brimstone for a short period of time and come out the other end complaining that it was too hard. Nothing worth working towards is easy. Some career paths take decades, and others may only take a few years to get a good grip of, but every single successful entrepreneur will say this:
Sometimes you will lose motivation. Sometimes you will wonder why you are even doing this in the first place, but the time and sweat you invest into this career, no matter what it is, will determine how successful you are in it.
When you fight through the confusion, failures, and struggles, the love that you have for whatever you are doing will grow. Put the time and effort in. It's worth it.
Hence, Cal Newport's equation:
(curiosity + engagement) x time = passion