In our world today, we are overwhelmed with promises to quit our jobs and chase our dreams. We are told that we deserve to be happy and that if we buy enough things that it will eventually happen. We are told to work for the weekend and plan that next vacation. But why can’t we be happy with the life we have right now?
We live in a culture that prizes leisure over labor and longs for a “four-hour work week.” Sadly, like many things in our culture, this promise is an illusion. The truth is you don’t have to hate your job. Work can become a source of fulfillment for you if you choose to see it that way.
For my recent book The Art of Work, I interviewed hundreds of people who had discovered their purpose in life. And as I spoke with these people who had found their callings I learned several lessons. Here are three of them.
1. Hating your job won’t make you any happier.
We don’t have to hate the work we do even if that work isn’t ideally suited to us. Everyone I met who found their calling in life ended up doing something that surprised them. Which means that connecting to your purpose is more about perspective than circumstance.
During World War II, Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl discovered an important lesson about human happiness: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Frankl learned this from living for years in a Nazi concentration camp. Everything was taken from him. His family. His work. His well-being. And yet he realized there was one freedom he could never lose: his.
If you choose to change your perspective, how things look will begin to change. You don’t need to win the lottery to find contentment. In fact, sometimes the very things we think will liberate us will actually only further prison us.
The easiest way to do work you love is to start loving what you do. This is a choice we all have. So let’s stop making work the enemy.
2. Do better work and the work will become more enjoyable.
One way to enjoy your work is to become better at it. It should be no surprise that we find greater fulfillment in activities that we are skilled at doing. But how much this is true is startling.
Laura Carstensen is a psychologist and the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity where they study what makes people live longer and happier lives. What they found was that people who continue to learn enjoy their work more and actually live longer.
Education, according to this study, is the single greatest predictor of lifespan. So you want to live longer? Be happier? Learn a new skill or get better at the one you have. And why not start with the place where you probably already spend eight hours a day?
Once we reach a basic level or proficiency, work that was once tedious may now be enjoyable. As Daniel Pink writes in his book Drive, mastering any skill makes the activity intrinsically more motivating. So if you are struggling to want to go to work in the first place, try doing better work.
3. Realize your whole life is a form of work.
Whether or not you have a day job, you go to work every day. You watch the kids or clean up the house. You mow the lawn or go grocery shopping. Every day, you are working, whether it’s at an office or at home. Whether you are retired or just beginning your career.
We all have important work to do. And that work is our life. Your magnum opus is not just one great thing you did. It is more like a body of work that you are constantly contributing to every day.
In that respect, we all get to decide what kind of job we have and how much we enjoy it. Of course, there are some things that are within our control, like our perspective, and some things that are not, like our circumstances. Your job is to learn to let go of what you can’t control and embrace what you can.
One important lesson about being happier with your life and work is learning to make trade-offs. It’s the dream of many people to want more of everything. More money. More stuff. More time. But you can’t have all three of those all at once.
So decide what’s most important to you. You can do almost anything you want in life but not everything. If you’re not doing what you want, you can quit. But that choice has consequences. You can stay where you are and there is a cost to that as well. One choice isn’t necessarily better than the other, so long as you realize you can’t have it all right now.
There is, however, something beautiful about not getting everything you thought you wanted. Constraints create contentment. Because in those constraints you realize what’s really important.
Jeff Goins is the author of four books including the national best seller, The Art of Work, which you can get for $2.99 this week only. You can find him on Twitter or follow his award-winning writing blog.
When we do the hard work of self-discovery—the stillness finding and the soul searching—we experience more peace and clarity than we ever felt when we were hustling.
And slowly, over time, the idea of the simple life moves from the head to the heart, until it’s really not about the stuff we fill our homes and lives with but instead about the people and pursuits we fill our hearts with.
And we can sit with our thoughts and enjoy our coffee…
Is it ever too late to simplify your life?
Technically, no. You should start today.
But practically speaking, there will come a time in all of our lives when we stare into the eye of a storm with one hand holding down the fort and the other distracted by the insignificant clutter and demanding tasks because we’ve put off simplifying one day too long.
It’s that moment when suddenly the world stops you in your tracks and reminds you how little you control. The world hasn’t stopped though and now you have to manage a crisis while managing the consequences of overconsumption, overwhelmed homes and calendars, and the important buried under the immediate and you realize you’re spread too thin.
Until recently I believed simplifying my life by owning (and wanting) less and being intentional with my priorities was the purpose of my new minimalist lifestyle—that the immediate benefits of less distraction and more margin for what I truly love was the sole purpose.
That was until our family was halted by an all too common storm: cancer. Again. The eye of this storm has fixed itself in our lives indefinitely while permanently burning a hole through normal and routine and safe. It is changing the pattern of life, forever.
When the winds are fierce and the howl is deafening and the rains drench deep to the soul, where fear devastates our happy go lucky existence, simple becomes our breath. Simple is our heartbeat.
Because in the face of cancer there is no margin for distraction or comparison or retail therapy—there is only breath and heartbeat. Life yesterday was normal and today it’s threatened. The lens of life, unaided by fancy electronic gadgets and fashion forward wardrobes, now focuses on the absolutes: Love. Family. Health. Hope.
When we travel with our young daughters, I am often preoccupied with preparing their carry-on bags with enough snacks and activities to keep them distracted, quiet, and manageable for the duration of the flight. I brainstorm every possible need they may have to ensure I can provide something to appease their fickle desires and inevitably I overwhelm everyone with the overstuffed luggage.
I prepare with the mentality that more will fix everything.
Our lives are full of messages that what we need is more. More money, more clothes, more stamps in our passports, larger homes, more toys…the list goes on. Yet, the message of more hasn’t fulfilled its promise.
More does not equal prepared, but it can equal distracted and overwhelmed and fragile. Buried underneath the weight of debt or clutter or busyness we sacrifice our readiness to take on life’s most ominous forecasts.
A prepared life is unrestricted by possessions and activity. It’s free from the unnecessary for the purpose of intentional readiness.
Simple living is more than creating space and joy in your life; it’s also preparation for life’s inevitable storms that require our full attention. It’s removing the side show of distractions and unnecessary fluff which steals our ability to handle the important and necessary with clarity.
Cancer diagnoses, devastating earthquakes in developing counties, or wildfires and hurricanes are not so subtle reminders that he with the most toys does not win. Our physical possessions are quickly discarded when disaster strikes.
Staring in the face of eternity we know soul deep that our hope is not found in our stuff.
The simple life cultivates hope; it prepares us to see and feel limitless hope. It shows up when doctor appointments don’t have to compete with unfulfilling activities on the calendar. Hope shines when a debt-free lifestyle softens the blow of the pending hospital bills. Hope floats as family and friends rally around not in pity but in support and love because of the relationships nurtured with intention.
The more of simplicity is hope!
And hope is mighty powerful in the face of the unknown. Hope is contagious and abundant when we value a life of simple joys, purposeful community, and authenticity.
It’s never too late for hope. And hope is brewing even in the darkest storm. The storm—the frightening diagnosis or the middle of the night phone call or the bad day on the stock exchange—it may be the warning siren to summon us into a simple life, offering us the opportunity to adjust our focus as we ride out the storm.
The simple life presents us with purpose and resolve and we no longer have to gather up our wits and fight with our reserves. We can fight with everything within and be present in the moment—to give ourselves fully to the storm and let go of the insignificant for the sake of the most important.
Maybe it’s never too late to simplify, but one thing I am more sure of now is that the simple life is more than owning less and less to do.
It’s also putting what’s most important first and crafting a life of margin in preparation for the unknown and inevitable complications of this broken world.
Don’t wait till the storm makes landfall. Simplify now and weather it out with hope and clarity and peace.
Thinking Will Not Overcome Fear but Action Will – W. Clement Stone – http://www.theseeds4life.com/thinking-will-not-overcome-fear-action-will-w-clement-stone
The one thing I learned in my turbulent life was to let go – of everything. I was moved between countries, between homes, between schools and every time all was lost; not only friends and places but also things. My magic boxes full of little insignificant treasures, my clothes, my toys. The first time I was displaced I also lost the person I loved the most, she who was peace and security to me, I never saw her again. I was just about to turn seven.
That was the first time I was displaced; I found myself in a new country without any of my belongings except a teddy-bear and a school-book. I struggled to understand, to fit in, to learn the language, to not be afraid. I locked myself in a shell and lived in a fantasy-world in my head. I was beaten, mocked and un-loved, waiting for the…
View original post 471 more words