1. Your career crisis is a luxury.
Having a career crisis is a luxury most people can’t afford. 80% of the world’s population live on less than $10 a day. That’s over 5 billion people who don’t have a choice as to how they make a living – it’s purely a matter of survival. So be grateful that you have a choice. First world problems aren’t so bad.
2. It’s not a new issue.
The search for meaning and creating a purposeful life is not a new phenomenon linked to idealistic members of Generation Y or the Millennials. Philosophers have grappled with the same issues and struggles for centuries. Perhaps the difference today is a feeling of entitlement – we were raised to believe we were special and therefore we’re less likely to put up with the tedium of ‘average’ jobs, relationships and lifestyles. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but coupled with our increased financial independence and mobility, it means that there’s little to stop us from hopping around in a constant quest for ‘better’, without ever stopping to ask if ‘better’ is truly the answer. It’s an age-old dilemma and we’re just more vocal about it.
3. Happiness comes from within.
There’s no shortage of “find your passion” articles in the media, but how many people are self-sufficient by pursuing their passions alone? And what happens when your lifelong passion is lost? Singers can lose their voices, athletes can lose their health, brainiacs can lose their minds. The reason we choose to “follow our passion” is because we think it will make us happier. But the truth we all know is that happiness comes from within. Harvard Medical School states it more simply as “strategies to get happier include living in the moment, being grateful, savouring pleasure, applying one’s strengths to everyday life, and doing things for others”. Being passionate about your work is only part of the equation. Don’t forget the rest.
4. Don’t expect to be treated fairly.
Life isn’t fair. Neither is the ‘system.’ People with equal abilities and attributes don’t get treated equally, nor do they always share the same levels of success. Kim Kardashian earned an estimated $52.5 million in FY15 (per Forbes’s 2015 Highest Paid Celebrities List), likely more than the most deserving of scientists and healthcare workers combined. So stop complaining about the unfairness of the system. The truth is, you’re not entitled to anything beyond the bare legal requirements. If you’re sitting there demanding a promotion, a pay rise, even mere recognition of your efforts and skills – you’re doing it WRONG. The successful don’t demand. They get given. They used leverage (in whatever form) successfully. And if you’re not happy (or able) to play the game, get out of the race. As Lily Tomlin put it: “The trouble with the rat race is, even if you win, you’re still a rat”.
5. Reality check: Not everyone is extraordinary.
By definition, we can’t all be extraordinary. Yes, we are all special in our own way, and within our small circles of influence, we may be considered extraordinary. But of the 7 billion people currently in the world, at any single point in time, how many individuals actually hold extraordinary talent or influence?
In the global scheme of things, 99.99% of us need to be content with being average.
That’s not to say we should aspire to mediocrity – far from it. Instead, we should aim for extraordinary but learn to be content even if we fail to hit the mark. It’s about enjoying the journey, even if there’s no prospect of reaching the finish line. Life isn’t about a bucket list of achievements – if you make it so, you’re missing the point.
6. No job is perfect.
Artists, entrepreneurs, rock stars, even “famous for being famous” celebrities have days when they’d rather stay in bed – maybe the artist suffers from creative block, maybe the entrepreneur hates paperwork, maybe the rock star doesn’t want to attend an obscure promotion event, maybe the celebrity doesn’t want to be interviewed by an antagonistic journalist.
The truth is, everything has its downside. Every position, every company, every organisation will have aspects you dislike – so choose your drudgery carefully. Be realistic about the struggles you can tolerate.
If you’re impatient for change, social and community work will frustrate you. If you fear failure or starting from scratch, entrepreneurship is not for you. If you can’t handle office politics, corporate life will be a struggle.
In his ground-breaking research into human psychology, Professor Csikszentmihalyi of Claremont Graduate University found that “being in the flow” generally lead to increased happiness and satisfaction. He found that ‘flow’ or ‘being in the zone’ exists when:
- The work feels effortless
- You lose track of time
- You aren’t thinking of yourself or personal comfort
- You can’t be distracted
- You are actively engaged
- The activity is well-matched to your skill level
- The activity of itself is rewarding, without focusing on results
- You want to repeat the experience
Therefore, if career satisfaction matters to you, choose a career where you experience enough ‘flow’ to justify the struggle.