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There seems to be a pervasive emphasis in our culture on making your job your main source of life satisfaction. 

Our cultural mythos is full of people who became “successful” by either landing or creating their “dream job.” 

When we think of people we consider “successful,” we very often think of people who are awesome at and highly paid for their job. 

The self help movement in Western culture in particular has really pushed this idea. 

Very often self-help gurus prominently push the idea that, if you adopt their philosophies and use their tools, you’ll experience a renaissance in your professional life— you’ll earn a lot more money, get a lot better at your job, or maybe even leave an unfulfilling job in favor of a new job or career that you DO find fulfilling. 

Conversely, we very often feel we are a failure if we are not working our “dream job.” 

It seems we often assume that if we’re working a job we don’t love, mostly to pay the bills, it’s because we lack the creativity or initiative to really “live our dreams.” 

A large subset of people look at their professional life, and they feel that they’ve somehow wasted the potential they once had because they didn’t get to be an astronaut or a movie star or the CEO of a company. 

I’m all for people working jobs they enjoy. I’m all for taking steps to improve your level of happiness and satisfaction at your job. 

But I also think we very much overestimate and overstate the importance of finding that “dream” job or career. 

I understand that for many people, our job consumes an overwhelming amount of time and attention. OF COURSE it makes sense to do everything we can to find ourselves in a job we enjoy, and which we feel makes a difference. 

The truth, however, is that your job doesn’t need to be the main source of your happiness or life satisfaction. 

For some people, their job will NEVER be their main source of happiness or life satisfaction— and that’s okay. 

There are people whose interests and passions are incompatible with making a living. 

There are people who are not built to do the things they’d need to do to earn a lot of money— not because they lack character or intelligence, but because the way our economic reality is structured just doesn’t fit wit who they are. 

For these people, this relentless focus on finding a “dream job” or somehow earning a fortune from their passions or interests can be incredibly alienating. 

Furthermore, the world cannot sustain every human being achieving their “dream career,” insofar as we NEED people to work all sorts of jobs that very few people would consider ideal. 

Every time I talk about this, I get people pushing back at me because a lot of people hate their jobs, and they seem to think I’m saying you shouldn’t try to change it if you do hate your job. 

I’m not saying that. I am emphatically for trying to be as happy and satisfied as possible in every domain in your life. 

What I am saying is, don’t lock yourself into imagining that your job HAS to be the centerpiece of your happiness— or even the centerpiece of your life. 

We all know some people who are unhappy specifically BECAUSE their job is the centerpiece of their happiness— or lack thereof. 

A job is something you do to pay the bills. Yes, it can be more than that— but you are not a failure if you haven’t managed to find or create that “dream career.” 

Focus on what you need out of life— regardless of what you do for a living. 

Focus on the feelings and experiences you want to create and feel on the regular— and if your professional life can facilitate those, great!

If your job cannot or does not facilitate your preferred feelings and experiences, don’t panic— and don’t get down on yourself for failing to “succeed” professionally. 

There’s a lot more to life than what you do for a living. 

Take care to create and nurture sources of happiness that do not depend on your professional life. 

Remember who you are independent of your salary or your work performance. 

 

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