Over the last few years, my father developed Alzheimer’s disease. Because his neurological health is slowly deteriorating, he requires the support of a caregiver. That caregiver is Robert. Every day, I send a selfie to Robert who shares it with my dad, keeping my face fresh in his mind, and he’ll send a picture of my dad back to me. Whether someone you know has been personally affected by Alzheimer’s disease or not, it goes without saying that it is an incredibly difficult and heartbreaking experience for everyone.
Robert, who cares for those suffering, has the toughest job of all and yet, he never shows it. He does his job joyfully, has never let on that he has a bad day, is dependable, generous, and truly caring, even though his day-to-day reality is helping someone through the hardest part of their life.
I find myself often thinking… why can’t everyone be more like Robert?
How many times have you thought “why can’t they just do their job?” I am met by so many people who do not embody these traits who work jobs much less taxing, much less emotionally and physically demanding; some even work jobs that others dream of having and yet… some of them can’t seem to be bothered to actually do their job.
It’s shocking to me given that our job is something we spend over half of our lives doing. Why are we choosing jobs that seem to make us miserable?
J.T. O’Donnell, author of books like Careerealism: The Smart Approach to a Satisfying Career and founder of the website Work It Daily dedicated to helping folks self-start, has researched this exact phenomenon extensively and the results are pretty interesting. She blames what she calls “praise addiction.”
“We’ve been trained to seek out incentives like good grades, stickers, trophies, and yes, praise. We like to be liked. More important, we like to be respected. We want people to be impressed with us. It gives us a temporary feeling of happiness.
The problem is we end up making career choices to impress other people so we can feel that fleeting rush of validation. In the process, we lose sight of what makes us truly happy. With each career move, we get unhappier. The more we try to impress, the more frustrated we feel.”
Put simply: when we aren’t choosing a job that best suits our talents and interests, we are choosing a job that we think either make us look good, is sensible, or in some way is outwardly validating.
What if, instead, we took the time to find out what it is we actually love doing and focus on what it is we’d like to give or how we’d like to serve?
I understand that many of us don’t always have the luxury of “taking the time” to find what we love doing or have the opportunity to look for something that brings us greater joy. Many people have big responsibilities, have gone through financial hardships, some people are the main breadwinner in a family of five, others are caring for sick parents. Some people simply don’t have a choice and in those instances, finding ways to bring joy and light to your day needs be an inside job. Even if it’s just a commitment, you make to yourself to make as many people smile throughout the day as possible.
Conversely, there are those people who somehow end up hating every job they have no matter what they’re doing. They’ve bounced from sales to marketing to non-profit work and always seem to have a new set of complaints. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to take a look at that.
Lastly, there is the type of people who do have a choice; they can try something else and just don’t. For these folks the question is simple: what are you waiting for?
I’m reminded of a friend of mine who worked at the same company for eight years and never once enjoyed it. Though she dreaded showing up and hated every minute she spent there, she kept getting promoted. Perhaps her dire need to get out of there as quickly as possible every day backfired and lead her to become an incredibly productive employee! Ironically, with every promotion and boost in her paycheck, she became more and more miserable. The money, the accolades, and the praise amounted to nothing; she was a living embodiment of the term “golden handcuffs.”
Regardless of her misery, she wouldn’t hear any advice that suggested she leave. She was too afraid. After all, she had a family and a mortgage. This job was sensible and stable and allowed a very comfortable lifestyle… that she never got to enjoy.
Interestingly, one year from when she quit, her position was eliminated as the company struggled financially. Imagine how she would have felt if after all that she had been laid off.
If you aren’t enjoying your life, then what is the point? Finally, the pain of staying become greater than her fear of changing and she got up the nerve to quit. She found a job at a small startup company and, while she and her family had to cut back financially, everyone is happier for it.
All that was holding her back was fear. All that ever holds any of us back is fear.
Fear of losing security. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of not having enough experience, of not being able to do it on our own, of not knowing what will happen, fear of failure. Regardless of the fear, the result of listening to that fear will always be the same: a joyless life. It doesn’t matter if you’re making $15 an hour or one million dollars a year.
Robert, on the other hand, is living his best life doing something that he enjoys, that gives him a sense of purpose and joy, and it shows in every interaction I have with him. He truly is an inspiration in this way, and he can be for you as well.
The level of joy we experience in life is our responsibility. We have immense power to change the tenor of our environment.
This means that our fear, stress, and complaints are all our job, too. The kabbalists teach that true joy, happiness, and fulfillment come when we realize that we are the creators of it. Nothing in the physical world, in the 1% reality, will ever bring us lasting joy and that includes our job. It’s the consciousness we choose that cultivates our happiness in each and every moment.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
How can you be more like Robert? How can you find joy in your job every day, no matter what it is? I would love to hear what you come up with and would also love to hear if it works!