We have all seen those lists on the internet, claiming to hold the key to the 35 things that will lead you to true happiness. They include ideas like waking up early and traveling more, taking time to be present and doing yoga. One question comes to mind whenever I read those articles: how truly helpful are these lists and do they hold the key to what leads to a happy life?
If you’re like me, then most of the men you know are deeply unsatisfied with the work they do. In fact, today we see the lowest rates of job satisfaction since those records exist, with a whopping 45% of workers stating that they are unhappy in their current employment. This applies to men and women across the country, but men tend to find more satisfaction in their careers as a whole. Women tend to relate their work satisfaction to outlying variables such as work and life balance or flexibility.
Men tend to see their work as a contribution to the goodness of the world to a greater degree than women do, so when they are unsatisfied or find their jobs unfulfilling, you can be sure it’s not doing great things for them internally. So much can be attributed to this fact. The reality is that a great deal of work is done indoors, with little to no tangible or observable results to speak of. The job market has expanded from around 30 different trades during the early 1900’s to tens of thousands of niche roles in a global market. Sadly this does not help in the pursuit of finding truly fulfilling work or ultimately, in the pursuit of happiness. We have more choices than before, but no mastery or feeling of true need or purpose, and this leads to a lot of dissatisfaction.
Part of the unhappiness for modern men in the work force may also stem from the fear of missing out on some sort of calling. Purposeless work seems to lead people into feeling that failing to find the supposed “dream job” will keep happiness at bay for a lifetime, guiding to a death confronted with purposelessness. I’m here to call bullshit.
This idea is similar to the soul mate crisis young singles can find themselves in, fueled by chick flicks and unrealistic ideas of romance perpetuated in pop culture and media at large. The fact is, there isn’t just one person you will be happy with, and I’m here to suggest it’s the same with your career.
If we took the time to ask the majority of people when they were kids what they wanted to be when they grew up and compared it with their actual careers today, we’d find almost no one is doing what they set out to do at ten years old. That happens for a variety of reasons, and depends on how realistic your aspirations as a young gal or lad really were. Here’s one thing we know for sure: what we want in life changes and transforms as we grow and mature.
Our careers and the specific work we do have less to do with finding an exact, precise role that was dreamed up with us in mind, and more to do with broader interests and value systems we have as people. It is possible to narrow your job search if you consider things like whether you like working in groups or alone, prefer sitting at a desk in an office environment or working with your hands, you desire to be in charge and help to manage a project or want to be under the direction of a team leader. These give you a broad reach of jobs that would in all likelihood make you equally happy.
You have to know what you want in terms of money, outreach, and what defines success for you. Many people have a desire to make the world a better place through the work they do, and would accept a pay cut within reason to achieve that. Some want to be able to move up within their career, to develop specialized skills that lead you to higher positions and recognition within your career. Others just want a job that helps them raise their family the way they want to.
If you’ve been agonizing over the perfect job, I have good news for you: no one gets to their death bed wishing they had worked more. Men often lament over the amount of energy and time they put into their careers and wished they would have spent more time on relationships when they reach old age. Connection and love are the most important things in terms of life fulfillment and consistent happiness, regardless of income, status, job, career, or lifestyle. Pick something you like, take steps in the right direction, and stop being so serious.
If you dread going to work everyday, there's a reason. The good news is, a better job may not be as far off as you think. Have you been held back by the search for the perfect job? It's not out there. But finding out how you work, what you value, and the type of impact you want to have on the world is paramount. Instead of waiting for the world to provide you with what you need, start looking inside. Being paralyzed with indecision can be conquered with action. Instead of reading more lists online invest in learning more about yourself. Write it down, talk with a friend, invest in some risky life changes or try out a new hobby. Spending less time focused on dissatisfaction and more time on making real changes, no matter how small, may lead you into the job or career you've been looking for.
What steps can you take today that will help you move towards that which you desire? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!