On Finding Work We Love

I once saw a mattress ad that argued that choosing the right mattress was the most important life choice you’d have to make after choosing a spouse. The basic premise of that ad was that since you’d be spending a third of your life sleeping, splurging on a good mattress would be money well spent, almost as good as that of splurging on your spouse (just ask my fiancee).

Though I do not agree that you necessarily have to spend good money for a good night’s sleep, it’s certainly good sense to focus on areas of your life you spend your most time on doing — what is one’s life but the making of choices regarding what we do with our time? Time, it can be said, is life.

For most of us, few other things take up as much as time as work does. The funny thing about work is that even though most of us know it takes up “a lot” of time, we often underestimate just how much time we give to our work. Many of us only think about the official hours we clock on the job, forgetting to take into account the time needed to prepare ourselves for work; for the commute to and from our place of work; for the necessary “unwinding” after a hard day’s work; and the time to “get away” from “it all” through vacations, with “it all” often meaning the distress we feel because of work.

How important, then, is it for us to  find work we love and enjoy, work we feel good about? If we find work “bad”, life is likely to be the same.

It is not uncommon to see people take up a job because of slightly better pay or because some company made them an offer first, not because it gave them a better chance to do more meaningful work or what they loved. After spending some time at the job, many of these people may find that they actually dislike what they do, but continue grinding it out day after day because of apathy and fear. Hey, I may hate this job, but at least I know I how much I hate it. Other jobs may be even worse!

Always thinking about whether a change would be better or worse, we decide to take our chances at our current jobs because at least we know what to expect.

It’s like the story the man who dropped his keys in the dark. A passerby approached the man after seeing him searching frantically under a streetlamp and offered to help, asking him where he’d dropped the keys. The man pointed to an unlit portion of the street and said, “over there.” Curious, the passerby asked the man why he was searching under the streetlamp if he hadn’t dropped his keys there, and the man replied, “because at least here I can see what I’m searching for.”

How many of us are tolerating “good enough” jobs we already know too much about, hoping someday, against all odds, the meaning, fun, and enjoyment they sought would suddenly turn up? Should we not expect out of work as much as work expects out of us?

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