Over the last few days, I’ve witnessed multiple conversations on the subject of job dissatisfaction. This isn’t just a small sample size or by chance. For quite some time, the theme of job dissatisfaction has been a steady narrative amongst friends, acquaintances, and strangers I happen to overhear.
The truth is, as many as 70% of Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs. I’ve heard plenty of anecdotal evidence to support this statistic.
What can you do to take job dissatisfaction into your own hands? Today I will share four lessons I’ve learned on my own journey to answering this question.
Lesson 1: Avoid the “Grass is Greener” Trap
On more than one occasion, I’ve willfully belittled or diminished my current position in favor of an unrealistic perception of another opportunity. This is because I was choosing to put the prospective opportunity on a pedestal.
I’d create a vision in my mind of the awesomely engaging work I could be doing elsewhere. I’d create images of the interesting and inspiring people I’d be doing it with. I’d imagine the overall life fulfillment I would gain.
There’s nothing wrong with any of that. But in this world I envisioned, there also weren’t any flaws (because what fun is it to imagine flaws?).
If you are not satisfied with your job, by all means, challenge it. Consider what might make you happier. Just ensure that an honest, balanced, and realistic outlook is taken into the process.
It can become easy to see a new opportunity as a shiny distraction from your current situation. By extension, it can be played up and made to seem better than it really is.
This is why it’s important to ensure that decisions are being made for the right reasons. If your judgement is clouded by perception of an unrealistically lofty outcome, you may have a rude awakening once the change has been made.
On the flip side, if you approach a major change with a clear lens, energy can be concentrated more efficiently. Instead of using energy daydreaming as a distraction from reality, it can be focused on ensuring the best outcome is achieved.
Lesson 2: Confront the Meaning of Passion
One message that gets thrown around pretty loosely is that of finding your passion. I commonly hear frustrations expressed as a result of this message.
“I don’t know what I’m passionate about, so how am I supposed to find it?”
“I’m passionate about going out dancing and hanging out at barbecues with my friends. Pretty sure I can’t get paid to do that.”
“They call it work for a reason, because it’s work. I’m not supposed to be passionate about it. There’s no such thing as work that I love to do.”
I can understand these viewpoints, because it’s easy to confuse the message around passion and finding work that you love. It’s easy to take it at face value. And when taken at face value, it seems unrealistic.
If you lead yourself to believe that meaningful work is unobtainable and unrealistic, you can justify doing nothing to seek it out.
It’s a classic case of confirmation bias. And then you’ve given yourself permission to remain where you are, vaguely unhappy and unsatisfied.
Because seeking out meaning is hard work. It’s not easy, and it’s not always fun (but it is a lot of the time).
Once you find something that is meaningful to you, it’s even more work to make it your reality. And it will probably be the hardest work of your life. No one is denying that hard work will be involved! This is the root of the misdirected frustration towards the message of finding your passion.
It’s not about finding something you love so much that it doesn’t feel like work. There will be work, and it will be hard. There will be days that suck. There will be mountains of self-doubt and second-guessing along the journey.
But if your pursuit holds meaning to you, and helps to leave your mark on the world, it will be the most rewarding work of your life.
Lesson 3: When Pursuing Interests, There is No Wrong Path
The key to finding meaningful work is to pursue and follow up on your interests.
When pursuing your interests, it is important to remember that there is no wrong path. It can be overwhelming to know what you should do or focus on next (see complication creep), but the alternative of doing nothing won’t do anything to serve you.
I thought about starting this blog for at least two years before I actually did it. I also thought about writing for some local websites I follow, but didn’t bother reaching out to the editors because I didn’t have any prior qualifications. When I finally did reach out, it was a matter of weeks before my first articles were published.
In both cases, I let myself become overwhelmed with feeling inferior, and not knowing where to start. But the follow through has been extremely rewarding. In hindsight, I can’t believe it took me so long to move forward.
Follow a lead and see where it takes you. Maybe you will find it’s not something you truly enjoy, but you will learn more about yourself by doing it. A nice side effect is that you will only become more well-rounded and interesting as a result.
Even if you devote time to something that doesn’t pan out, there’s no telling what doors can be opened in the process. You might read a book, discover a blog, or talk to someone who introduces you to an entirely different set of interests or opportunities. Opportunities which may have otherwise been missed out on.
If you embrace the truth that there is no wrong path, fear of failure can be overcome. If you are doing things for the right reasons, you will soon realize that even failure will compound into future success.
Lesson 4: Optimize the Resources Available To You
When I started discovering inspiring people who have taken drastic measures to live on their own terms, the first thing I did was make excuses for myself. Excuses as to why I wouldn’t be able to do what these people were doing.
“It’s really great that Chris Guillebeau was able to visit every country in the world and fly for nearly free. I could never do that, because I need my job and stability, and travel hacking is way too much work.”
“It’s really great that the Go Curry Cracker family was able to retire in their 30’s and travel the world indefinitely. I could never do that, because there’s no way I could save up enough money.”
“It’s really great that Pam Slim is able to host writing retreats and tour the country speaking with amazing people. I could never do that, because who am I that anyone important would ever want to talk to me?”
Once I stopped making excuses, I saw that the only thing standing in the way was myself.
The powerful lesson to be learned here is that we can use the resources available to us, in any way that we choose. They can be used to feed complacency. Or they can be used to build your life on your terms.
Everyone is in a different situation, but everyone has resources available to build a better life. The limits of the resources available to you are only bound by your own creativity and desire to leverage them to your advantage.
If you aren’t satisfied with your job or career, there are plenty of things that can be done to change your path. This reality must be confronted with a positive attitude, and an acknowledgement that big changes are possible.
You can find meaningful work. You can live an adventurous life. But it won’t come without sacrifice. It won’t come without hard work. It won’t come without patience.
These three truths are scary. Many people choose to convince themselves they are impossible to overcome, so that they don’t have to confront these fears.
They will be ones complaining at the next social gathering you attend. Make note of it, move on, and find the people who are there to make the world a better place. They are the people you want to have in your corner.