Passion or Paycheck, Do You Really Have To Choose?

By: Dr. Gwen Smith
Statistics show that between 70-80% of US workers are dissatisfied with, or simply hate, their jobs (Business Insider, 2010, 2014; NY Daily News, 2013). The reasons range from people not having control over their job conditions, to them first starting a career for extrinsic reasons, and then later being too afraid to make a transition once they are no longer motivated by what got them started in the first place. Others claim that it’s the bad bosses, the lack of control over what one is required to do, tedium, among so many other dynamics. No doubt these all are contributing factors.
There are still others who go a few extra miles to claim that people hate their jobs simply because they are getting paid and the act of getting paid causes one to lose motivation. To some degree, that may be credible when it comes to the rigidity of expectations for paid work. However, not so much to the degree that it would cause one to simply hate his or her job just for being paid. Clearly the latter reason may not be a universal truth. If it were, everyone getting a paycheck would hate his or her job.

Other communicated reasons are lack of flexibility in time to enjoy one’s income and intrinsic pay limitations for salaried work not proportional with time investment. In my personal experience with coaching clients, these are the most frequently stated reasons. People are consequently suffering from burnout and having a great desire of wanting to call ‘my own shots’. Despite these obvious dissatisfaction some people do, at times, still love what they do, though they continue to wish for more time or more money to spend with their families. It’s clear that people do react differently to loving or hating their jobs even under similar working conditions.

So, why then, given identical circumstances, do some people completely love what they do and others, not quite so much? What could be a key missing ingredient that could make the difference for so many? For one, we are all different, and as the common saying goes, “Different strokes for different folks”. We all have different desires, wants and needs and this translates to different reactions to similar circumstances, not just on the job. We seldom consider these differences, however, when selecting or recommending job choices for others or for ourselves. This can make all the difference in the world in regards to our happiness.

Instead, we select careers based on external factors which may not make a real difference in what matters to us in the long run and which do not take into consideration our differences. We are socialized to looking good and to achieving statuses in life just to maintain a certain image: money, the letters behind our names, job titles and the likes. There is nothing wrong with some of these external factors, but working to maintain them at the expense of more inherently treasured values, benefits and well-being can be the source of dissatisfaction for many. And with the same status-driven mindset, we buy into the teaching to go to school, get a good education and then make a great living—once again, not inherently wrong—however, in doing so, we are completely oblivious of our likes and dislikes in directing what we choose; consequently ending in our unhappiness.

Some of the more enlightened ones, who cued into their internal mechanisms for guidance to pursue their areas of interests, were highly discouraged by loving parents who wanted to ensure security by having them select a ‘more stable’ job. Yet the externals: titles behind our names, the envious six-figure salaries, the status and prestige that we had hoped would bring us lasting happiness and security, faded rather quickly once those of us whose aim it was to achieve those, actually did. What was likely sacrificed was delayed deeper gratification, joy, fulfillment and freedom of time and income that could have possibly come sooner had we followed our path with the same time investment, determination and effort we placed in working on someone else’s passion.

This is all guesswork, I know. It may or may not have turned out this way. However, we have more than just a few examples to look at to see what may have been, or may still be possible, by following our internal compasses, what I call our passion. It is never too late to start. Some of these examples of multi-millionaires and billionaires were not graduated from high school or college and yet were able to acquire what many are striving for. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, just to name a few are some of these examples. They followed their internal systems, created a solution to people’s needs, and are able to reap the benefits.

It doesn’t appear then, that running after the extrinsic things in life consistently produces intrinsic satisfaction. Instead, once we achieve what we set out to have, we are sometimes left with a deep feeling of void; of something missing. And we become very aware that there is something more to life than we had anticipated. So what makes the difference? Our internal compasses are redirecting us to our original passion, and following this path is the only way to feel completely fulfilled. The difference in following your passion is what it takes for you to feel completely whole and fulfilled in what you do as work. It’s what causes some to love their jobs and others to hate the same job. Having money or status or something else external to our calling, though possibly good to have, will not provide fulfillment. Yet, many remain stuck by their fate and continue to experience the fear of the unknown of what could happen if they were to venture out. Following your passion will cause you to feel fulfilled in your vocation. Money alone won’t, status alone won’t having a great job alone won’t. And keeping a false sense of security by hanging on to what you have only delays your fulfillment.

By this we all truly know that to yearn for the “security of a job”, in the midst of this economic crisis with lay-offs and downsizing is ludicrous. Job security does not exist. Yet some continue to cling, and then sadly become the next unemployment statistic with nothing else to fall back on. That creates an opportunity for some to start their own path, but why wait until the rug is pulled out from under you to take action?

You have a choice. Is it passion or is it paycheck? Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be one or the other. You can take the first step while you have a paycheck and get started on your passion. Find out what you love to do and find a way to make it happen by building this part time while you work. With diligence, this will allow you to walk away from your job, if you so choose, and start being fulfilled sooner rather than later, or not at all. Having choices in just about any area of one’s life causes everything to feel better. It is a powerful way to live.

So, instead of working to just survive, or just for ‘security’, or status, pursue your passion simultaneously with your job and build it. This passion could, in the long run, produce an even larger paycheck pre-destining you to earlier freedom of time and money for the rest of your life. It would be a great sacrifice, and wouldn’t you agree that it would be worth it? It most certainly will. If you are unhappy, make your choice, and if you are a bit uncertain about how to, you don't need to do this alone. Seek out the guidance of a competent professional coach to help you sort through the rambles. It will mean the difference between dissatisfaction and complete peace of mind and fulfillment for you for the rest of your life. Would you agree that would be completely worth it?

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