So many of us end up in jobs just for money—jobs that suffocate our soul but pay the bills.
I went through the motions of life without meaning and purpose. These are such a fundamental part of our happiness, but often we believe we can’t have both.
Meaning and purpose don’t have to come from our job; they can come out of our hobby (as for many artists) or the sense of satisfaction we get from helping others through volunteering. I felt more purpose in my voluntary jobs than in any paid job.
We may also find ways to incorporate our values and beliefs into our day jobs to make them more bearable—teaching others, solving problems, being a listening ear, or creating something unique. As we spend so much time at work, though, it makes sense to try to make money doing something we enjoy. Purpose is so much more than money can buy.
As I progressed up the corporate ladder, I found I became less fulfilled, despite the increased salary, the company car, posh hotels and holidays around the world.
My life still lacked meaning and purpose.
It’s not that easy, I hear you say. I need to pay my bills and look after my kids, and I can’t earn money doing what I love.
Who says you can’t earn money doing what you love? So many travel writers, photographers, athletes and musicians do exactly that.
But it’s already been done. There are other successful people already out there doing that.
Maybe so, but it hasn’t been done by you. We all have our unique twist and personality—and everyone who’s where they are started from where they were.
It is hard, and often we have to do both for a while: paying the bills whilst fueling our passion. I still had to pick up the odd contract in my former job to fund my writing career as I moved through a transition phase. I spent time penniless and homeless pet-sitting because I couldn’t afford rent, but never once did I regret my choice, because every day I felt alive. It takes a long, hard, dedicated slog of nothing; that’s why we can only do it if we love it. No one would put this much effort and hardship into something they didn’t love.
It’s not meant to be easy, but it’s not impossible.
Like many, I practically worked for free my first three years, but I still loved it and built the foundations for success. Meanwhile, I took extra day jobs that paid the bills. (So did Liz Gilbert when writing Eat Pray Love; so do most musicians when they’re touring local pubs in the early days, and so do many fledgling sport stars.)
Start somewhere, and build it up. The beauty of it is, if it’s your passion it won’t feel like work. Chances are you’ll be good at it, and as you grow this energy will attract others.
But what if we don’t know what our passion is? How do we find it?
We can ask ourself: What are my values and strengths, what makes me get up in the morning? What would I do if there were no obstacles (money, age, health). What makes my heart sing?
Often the answer is a resounding, I don’t know!
That’s okay. Start asking yourself those questions, and starting incorporating more of the answers into your life. Meaning and purpose might become apparent, and if they don’t, at worst you’ve just incorporated a hell of a lot more of what you love into your life—and that’s not a bad thing either.
When I left the corporate world, I had no idea what I really wanted to do, so I spent a year doing all the things I loved to help direct me. I trained to be a yoga teacher, because yoga was a passion. This lead me to writing a book, which included the theory of yoga and how the philosophy could make our lives easier. I didn’t actually teach much yoga, but without a step in that direction I may not have ended up where I am.
Even when we do know, we can spend our whole life thinking about it, reaching toward that tiny light that remains just out of sight. Or maybe we spend our whole lives running from it, hiding behind the fear of stepping out of the shadows. Either way, it’s easier said than done, even if we have an inkling buried deep within of what it is we should be doing with our lives.
Sometimes the answer lies in the things we used to do as a child, until we got too grown up and busy with “real” life. Or perhaps it’s that one thing we’re putting off until we retire or win the lottery—when we’ll have the time and money. “Real life” can start when our problems are solved and the to do list is complete. Unfortunately, that’s never going to be the case. Time and money are always going to be there, so we need to stop letting life pass us by and figure out how to find success in a life full of meaning—instead of at the expense of one.
What is “real life” unless it’s one worth living, unless it is one that makes our heart sing and allows us to tap into our meaning and purpose? How can we expect to be happy if we’re just going through the motions, not living in accordance with our purpose?
Ask yourself, how bad do you want it?
So, what are you going to do to get it?
Author: Jess Stuart
Image: Sarick Banana/Deviantart
Editor: Toby Israel