Many young people in the workforce have heard the same slogan in their high school or college graduation speech, “Find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” That is a very inspiring message about fulfillment, and a great mentality to have, especially for a generation that has an unclear outlook on whether retirement is even an option.
Yet, in recent years, many of those young people are still struggling to find their dream jobs. There is a misconception that everyone has a soulmate when it comes to finding that perfect job, and they just have to keep searching to find it. Out there is a job you won’t get tired of. A job with minimal stress. A job without work drama. All that and it pays an excellent salary with great benefits. The reality is that jobs aren’t perfect. No job is. They all still feel like work some days.
Look at those lucky few who have literally monetized their hobbies such as Instagram Influencers and YouTubers. Even those influencers are struggling with their mental health and happiness just like everyone else. Many have taken breaks from social media and found themselves unsure what to do with their lives. There has been a string of new teen movies such as Step Sisters and the Perfect Date (both Netflix films) that show these ambitious young adults aiming high for Ivy League schools before having experiences that show them a different, more fulfilling path.
The New Image of Fulfillment
This mentality that you must love your job could be a source of depression for many people. This may also be a piece in the puzzle of why young people are job-hopping in a way never seen before in the American workforce. We’ve now adopted the idea that if you’re not happy in your job, just leave! But can you be certain that you’re not just jumping from the frying pan into the fire?
So, what is the answer?
The fulfillment of your life doesn’t need to come from your job. There are other places that we can derive that happiness from.
Work-life balance is more important now than it has ever been.
In some careers, your work can define you. Doctors and lawyers, for example, work excessive hours after extensive years of education to get their careers. It can easily become part of their identity. Still, even for them, it is only a job. It is not who they are as a person. Getting away from the idea that work defines you, would allow for room to be your own person.
Find what nurtures you as a person.
Who are you outside of work? Do you do creative projects? Do you travel? Do you volunteer? What kind of friend are you? What kind of parent or partner are you? We are conditioned to bring so much to our jobs that we can forget to ask what do we bring to our personal time? Find what nurtures you as a person and spend more time pursuing it.
Change your mindset about work
Maybe you are just at this job to pay the bills and there isn’t anything wrong with that. If you aspire to be a parent, then you’re working to support your family. If you aspire to be an artist, the day job is just that; it’s a means to an end to get you to where you want to be. Accepting this as okay and getting away from a shameful mentality of not loving your day job can help you approach work in an effective way so that it isn’t solely about bringing you fulfillment.
Our values tell us a lot about what matters to us. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy tells us to look at what our top values are, which can be a great guide to what you need to focus on in your life to feel fulfilled. When we neglect our values, we can easily become depressed and discouraged. If you value nature but live in the city, maybe changing your scenery outside of work could bring you fulfillment. If you value friendship, check in with your friends and nurture them. If you value knowledge, re-examine how you’re continuing to educate yourself. Doing these things outside of work can aid your overall happiness and sense of fulfillment.
Aspiring for happiness in the workplace isn’t necessarily a bad idea. If a job sucks all of your energy and time away from what makes you happy outside of work, then it is time to reassess your place of employment. With how our modern society is set up, we have to work some form of a job to survive in it. We need an income of some sort to be independent, but that job doesn’t need to be the sole source of personal fulfillment.