You design your journey — not your job

Jobs are a means to an end for far too many people. I know this because for the lion’s share of my life, I have been one of them. When I think of people that I know personally or those that I have worked with, I realize they feel the same way. They might love the values or core principles their company stands for, but they don’t love their job. Because they’re not doing what they love most.

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Jobs are what put money in our pockets, which enable us to have families, travel the country and world, buy a house and watch Golden Girls re-runs on cable television after the kid is in bed. All right, maybe that last one is just me. But think about this: If you could have all of the fruits of safety, security and food to eat, would you still work in your current job?

Or would you do the activity, hobby or life’s work that you love? Don’t worry, that’s a rhetorical question. I think we both know the answer.

“Reach for the stars” and “Follow your dreams” may sound like idyllic gobbledygook when we’re young. However, those who tell us this age-old advice (cliché for sure) do so for a reason. They want to see us happy and it’s apparent to them — whether they’ve lived this dream or not — that a key component of happiness is doing work that inspires you.

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How the Cycle Begins

Our jobs define our lives in so many ways and yet many of us don’t give too much thought to exactly what we’ll become when we’re younger. Depending on where you go to school and what you learn, there’s a good shot that you may not be well positioned to produce valuable work in your late teens or even your early-mid 20s. Much of our secondary schooling and university structure was not build for utilitarian purposes. Sad but true.

We’re taught about particular subjects in college, sometimes, things that will have no bearing on how we attempt to earn money. At best case, we hope that these things will satisfy our intellectual curiosity.

This is not to say that colleges, high schools or technical schools don’t ever position people for success after graduation. They do. I’m simply saying, it’s a flawed system. Part of it is just how life goes. We don’t always know what we want when we’re 20. Worst case, we’re taking courses simply to get a degree.A degree that may not hold as much value, as we never plan to use that knowledge ever again.

Once we graduate, we realize how much jobs become the measuring stick for how we see ourselves but, overwhelmingly how others see us. Jobs can become our identity, what we attract and what gives us our status in society.In the U.S., the bastion of capitalism, people become consumed with earning money. Our perception of what we need to earn may go far beyond providing for our necessities and even some luxuries.

Capitalism breeds competition, which is a terrific thing, but we need to be mindful that the competition to make the most money is a race better left sitting out. We’re wise to concentrate our energies elsewhere, like finding the activities that elicit powerful, uplifting emotions. We’re smart if we work hard on developing the skills required to become paid professionals or highly-competent hobbyists in these enterprises.

Character, Perception, and Reality

We are known more for the work we produce — and what we do — than our true character to the vast majority of people. Now, you don’t need to get me started on how the most important worldly relationship you’ll ever have is the one with yourself. I am the biggest proponent of this and I shout it from the rooftops. Not literally, but figuratively. I mostly write about it here.

Yet, there’s no denying that others cannot possibly see all of our character; the inner core of what makes us who we are. Others cannot see how we treat those closest to us at all times. They do not have a special view of our relationship with God or the relationship we have with ourselves. They’ll never know what we think and do when no one is looking.

The saying, “perception is reality,” is wondrous because it literally can be both right and wrong. So true and simultaneously so false. It is often true in how others think of us and usually untrue in how we view ourselves. We may know in our hearts what we truly are- what we yearn for, what lights the fire inside of us and what we want most out of life.

But sometimes, even those closest to us and, particularly those who only know us in work or social settings, most certainly do not. They see who we are in public, they observe our idiosyncrasies, the veneer and outward portrayal that we share with others. I’m not suggesting that this outward portrayal is phony.

It’s just simply a fact that we behave a particular way in certain environments, lest others seek committing us to an insane asylum.

I write this because if someone saw my house at about 7 o’clock in the evening, they may think so. This is right after my 3-year-old eats, then runs roughshod through every room in our house, playing with me, his papa bear (he the baby bear), rummaging, barreling and knocking everything over.

Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs

In Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” chart, the physiological and safety needs form the base of the pyramid. Survival. Without these things, we wouldn’t exist. And yet the longer I’ve lived, the more I’ve come to believe that we don’t truly live unless we reach the zenith of the pyramid, the self-actualization of creativity.

I believe a major reason why we’re here- not the biggest reason- is to get in touch with our creative sides and inspire others by the work- the art and magic we produce.

We who have been given this remarkable opportunity of being afforded safety, security, and sustenance, must will ourselves to strive for the peak of this pyramid. Even when we create physical work, the idea to do so is first conceived in our minds. Then, it’s how we analyze, imagine and will the object of our desire into being. This is what gives it life. Believe it into being.

Dream Big, Do You

I often talk about how I want to be a bestselling author, something I’m hopefully on the path to someday achieving, as my first book just came out! I have spent a great deal of time in my life planning out what I love to do most. This is the work that I hope will define and bring joy and fulfillment to my life.

“Whatever the mind of man (or woman) can conceive and believe, he/she can achieve.” — Napoleon Hill

Each day is one step closer to converting these hobbies and activities into a job and work that will produce financial, emotional and spiritual gain. These things, I believe, will bring true satisfaction as only I, the architect of these plans can design.

Yet, my plans don’t mean as much to me as the relationships that I have with the ones I love. The true me is someone who loves God, his family and friends more than anything in this whole world. I want to be surrounded by love.

That’s not simply a moment of reckoning for me now; it’s the way I’ve felt both consciously and subconsciously, for all of my life. I was given the gift of a loving family, one who believed in me and cared for me. This matters immensely more than my dreams.

I think it is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary. — Elon Musk

And yet I know, deep down, that I won’t become the person I want to become unless I am producing the work that I believe I was put on this Earth to create. I darn well know that the jobs I have worked in over the course of my career have not given me that realization of personal development and self-actualization I desire. Maybe you feel the same.

I dedicate several hours of each day, on occasion working to the point of exhaustion, in order to cultivate and deliver the writing, coaching, and content that will change the lives of my readers and clients — and my own. I’ve written extensively about how success, at least for me, is best defined by the words of legendary basketball coach, John Wooden:

“Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

I write frequently about this definition because I feel it always bears repeating. I read this every, single day. Success is peace of mind, the realization that you have done your absolute best with the talents you’ve been given. And yet, it’s simply impossible to feel that we’re not being judged, defined and ultimately valued by others — for what we produce — through the lens of how they see us.

How Will You Leave Your Mark on the World?

We’re often known simply by the company or organization that we work for. That’s great for some people but the majority of people that I know would much prefer to be known for their own personal brand. For you, that could be wanting others to know the mother or father that you are; the son or daughter. Maybe you want your calling card to be your sense of humor, generosity or the work you’ve created with your hands.

I was talking with a colleague the other day about someone we mutually knew, though he less than I. He said, “Oh yeah, Kristin, from Accenture, right? It was an easy descriptor but nevertheless, that’s simply how Kristin may be known to everyone! Kristin from that company. Good or bad, for better or for worse.

We become known by the company or the work we perform. That job may simply be a means to an end, an occupation that may not even come close to defining who we are or how we want people to know and remember us.

A job is only a job for so many people. It’s ultimately survival. We may have a burning desire to survive and, that carrot in front of us does help us get up out of bed when we’re way too tired. Because the baby was crying at 3:30 and we needed to make sure she was OK. Because we wouldn’t stop writing at 12:30 at night because we had achieved literary nirvana- a golden rush of new ideas.

I’ve simply come to believe through my own experience and the observation of so many others, that survival, as crazy as this may seem, is not enough.There has to be more. We hunger for something greater than just supporting ourselves. We’re lucky and blessed to have the gifts we have but when we’re honest with ourselves, that’s simply not enough.

We aspire to a higher level of human achievement. The power to create and become who we want is in our minds and in our hands. We design our journey and the life we are called to live.

Value Yourself!

My book on Values is out NOW!

This article first appeared on Medium