Posted by fxckfeelings on November 22, 2016Share This Post
Young people in search of their vocational calling are often told to “find a job you’ll love.” What they aren’t told, however, is that most people love eating, having a roof over their heads, and getting to keep all of their teeth, and it’s easier and better to find a job you hate that helps you achieve those beloved goals than to search endlessly for work you’re passionate about while homeless and hungry for soft foods. Job satisfaction is never guaranteed nor fully under our control, so if working a shitty job is often unavoidable, working hard, whether your job calls to you or not, should be a source of pride, not shame.
I started my own business almost ten years ago, and it’s since grown really well with a staff of about 17 or 18. The problem is, I don’t enjoy the business I’m in very much at this point, so I am grappling with whether I should stop and do something else, or just carry on putting up with it. It’s hard to give up on something I’ve invested a lot of time and effort in, the business is doing well, I don’t want to put all my employees out of work, and I’m scared that I’d be throwing something valuable away and live to regret it in the future. My goal is to figure out whether (and how) I should stick to a job that I can no longer stand.
As much as we’d all like to wake up some morning in midlife and suddenly realize that we’re totally satisfied with the choices we’ve made and have no regrets or fears about what lies ahead in Act II, there’s a reason we hear a lot about “midlife crises” while “midlife moments of Zen” are not so much a thing.
In reality, we don’t all have a talent for making money and the jobs available don’t always allow us to do something we enjoy, or are competent at, or expect to last beyond the next recession. (All that many of us do have, however, is a tendency to recognize this at the midpoint of our lives.)
Since job-enjoyment isn’t a reliable measure of success, don’t think for a moment that you’re doing something wrong if you no longer feel like you’re in the right field. Finding a job or creating a business you enjoy may not be possible and, by trying to doing so, you may ignore more important priorities.
Instead, ask yourself what you’re doing your work for, aside from enjoyment and emotional fulfillment. Unless you’re an ascetic loner, you’re working to buy not just things you need to survive but also want because they’re shiny, support yourself and perhaps a family, and, possibly, make the world a better place. If you also enjoy what you’re doing, more power to you, but, as we always say, if it were fun, they wouldn’t call it work.
Weigh the risks of starting over, given your savings, financial needs and responsibilities, and the likelihood of finding a better job. Yes, you have a responsibility to others, but your workers are not your top priority. Just because chance has given you temporary power over their wellbeing doesn’t mean you have much control over their financial security in the long run, and you have other priorities to consider first.
So don’t let your decision to choose a new career path be guided either by disasstisfaction with your past decisions or guilt caused by how the wrong choice could effect the future. Figure out what you’re working for—then, now and until retirement—and consider the risks and benefits of changing your current job.
Then you’ll find a compromise that best reflects your values. It may not make you happy or protect you from future bad luck, but it will protect you from the regret that comes from a feckless choice fueled entirely by garden-variety midlife malaise.
“I may never stop second-guessing my decisions about my business, particularly if they result in unhappiness for me or those I care about, but I know what I’m working for and my decisions will reflect the best compromise I can find between the necessity of making an honest living and living life according to my values.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname