Some of us have found our dreams jobs--we can fulfill our passion and/or serve others on a daily basis--but many of us are not so lucky.
So how do we find joy in a job that we work simply to pay the bills?
Margaret told a story of a parking booth attendant who works downtown: “His name is Felix, and the first time I met him, I was struck by what a happy and joyful soul he is. Now I’m pretty sure he wasn’t thinking that was his dream job or the best place he could serve others, but he has brought joy to the job--that’s the key. It’s not the job; it’s the person [who creates joy].”
A popular old adage says, “Do what you love,” but perhaps that’s not the advice by which we should live. Maybe instead we should target careers that allow us to use the gifts we were given and the skills we have learned while still permitting us to find contentment.
Happiness causes ripple effects within the workplace, as do anger, resentment, and criticism, so if we can work intentionally to create joy in our jobs, we can increase the positive effects for all of those around us. Finding satisfaction in everyday tasks requires that we purposefully and intentionally look for the good in even the mundane. Felix does not focus on the negatives of his job as a parking attendant; he finds the positive and spreads cheer with his daily encounters.
Howard Thurman, an African-American author, educator, theologian, and civil rights leader, said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Thurman does not describe finding your dream job and doing what you love; he instead focuses on the feeling of coming alive. We will spend the majority of our lives working, so we do not want to settle for jobs that make us feel dead inside. All careers have stress, and all jobs have their unpleasant moments, but if you feel energized by working, then you’ve found the right fit. The next step is to work, with eyes wide open, to find the good on a daily basis and then zero in on it.
Deborah Adele writes, “The Sanskrit word adikara means the right to know or the right to have. This word challenges us to the reality that if we want something, then we better grow the competency required to have it...we can dream and wish all we want, but we only get what we have the competency to have and keep.”
We can wish to be doctors, but we must develop the skills to be one, which includes years of education, studying, and training. We can dream of making more money, but we must first take steps to earn more money and learn what to do with it once it arrives.
Adele continues, “Our outcomes in life are consistent with our abilities, not necessarily our wishes or goals.”
Most small children wish for extravagant careers--a celebrated singer, a professional basketball player, a famous actor, a Ghostbuster--but as they age and realize the constraints of their abilities, they adjust their career paths accordingly.
Somewhere along the way, we lose sight of what makes us come alive. Perhaps we become more realistic, or maybe we become more fearful. Some paths are clear cut--such as a doctor, attorney, or teacher--but others require much more faith.
We should all know the pleasure of “coming alive” with our work. If fear or competency is holding you back from pursuing your career goals, then perhaps consider steps you can take to move toward your objective. If your work environment is toxic and prevents you from finding joy, then maybe it’s time to move on.
Whatever your career path or goals, work deliberately to observe all facets of your job, and then focus on the positives in your chosen field. So often we see the negatives; by shifting our perspectives and zooming in on the good, we can change our entire outlook.
Work with intention. Be more alive.
*Yoga teachers Gena Collier (top) and Dhawi Pienta (bottom) wearing Yogaja Shop apparel (Mary Wyar Photography).