I cannot tell you I woke up one day and knew I needed to change.
It was a subtle yet persistent feeling that I woke with each morning. Like a stomach ache before school, this job, this lifestyle, wasn’t what I wanted. It was counter to my very existence and every morning I felt the indigestion of an unmanageable life. But somehow, even as unhappy as I was, the thought of changing seemed insurmountable.
I felt all alone. I was a mature woman feeling like a school girl with a good case of school-itis. Baffled, I wondered how this could be. I had worked hard to get this job of my so-called dreams. I spent years in school, countless hours studying for tests and preparing for interviews. How could I complain about a job that paid a six-figure salary, had growth potential, gave me status and challenged me intellectually?
I could complain. In fact, it was okay to complain. While all these attributes were great, they were not things that I valued most. I felt ungrateful and unworthy of my discontentment. Everyone around me thought ‘what a lucky lady’, but I did not feel so lucky.
Others saw a large salary and huge title as objects of desire, but what they didn’t see was the competition, long hours and office politics. This is what I had to live with daily and sit with at night. It caused anxiety. Anxiety caused stomach aches, insomnia and lack of appetite.
It crept up on me: that this job was important to me solely because of the appearance. It made me feel important because others envied me, but it did not suit me. Money, status and power were not my highest priorities. Creativity, helping others and self-management were all important to me. This job offered little of these things. No matter how much my peers, office mates and friends applauded my work, I never felt validated because I was not honoring my inner purpose.
I spent years thinking there was something wrong with me for not loving this job, but there was nothing wrong with me. The only thing wrong was that I was not honoring my purpose. I was overriding it for what I believed I should do. I was good at what I did, but I did not love it. So I did not do it with passion.
When a job does not align with your inner vision, it begins to show. First with subtle things like the lack of enthusiasm for a new project, waiting for the day to end and frustration when things do not go smoothly. When you do not like what you do, you don’t see challenges as opportunities for growth; they are obstacles. And suddenly the walls you hit in the job lead to negative self talk. Not only did I not like the job; I no longer felt good at. It wasn’t that I didn’t possess the talent to be good at it; I just didn’t have the motivation.
Recognizing the problem of being stuck in a job that is not in line with your purpose is the hardest step, but it is the first step. Yes, we have to worry about money and how to change. But that is not as hard as that first leap of faith. It is hard. It is scary. It’s terrifying to leave a familiar workplace and steady salary to do what your mind, spirit and soul are screaming to do.
Being great at something you dislike is far worse than being bad at something you love to do. When there is determination, somehow we find a way and a how. It sounds too simple, but it is simpler than you think. Fear of being penniless is the thing that holds us back most. But dissatisfaction with a job you are ‘qualified to do’ leads to ennui and this ennui leads to an overall lackluster life.
So when we come to that fork in the road where we are not living the life we love because we are scared, there is hope. Don’t look at it as you have failed because you do not like this job, because you are unhappy. You only fail if you let yourself stay in this state of discontent. Yes it will take time and planning, but trust me: once you start to do what you love, your energy will change, you will radiate, you will be motivated and, yes, that is when you will earn your potential.
Author: Jane Cowles
Editor: Caroline Beaton