Have you confused your job with your work? It's easy to do exactly that, and then become frustrated because your daily tasks aren't making any progress toward your deeper purpose.
Confusing concept? Perhaps an example will help provide clarity:
This role includes providing financial support. My earning a paycheck is a vital part of my overall work. However, my current job is not my ultimate goal; it is merely a means to an end. (This doesn't mean that I am not doing my best work while there or trying to find a better position.)
It only recently occurred to me that I had been approaching my work backward. I had been growing increasingly frustrated with my job: it seemed to only be getting in the way of doing anything meaningful. That paycheck was becoming little reward for the time that I spent there. I dreaded going to work in the morning and was stressed in the evenings.
Then I realized that it was all in my mindset. The job isn't my purpose, my end goal. It is merely a means to an end. It really is nothing more than some experience and a paycheck. And once I started approaching it as such, work magically became much better. Not only was it less stressful and began to mentally stay at the office, but I became more productive.
Because I am now working more efficiently I have more free time. And that free time allows me to work toward my current real work - whether that means planning dates, putting together next week's meal plan and shopping list, or hunting for my next job after she graduates and we move.
What Is Your Real Job?
It's amazing how much of a difference this simple perspective change made in my daily life.
If you're frustrated with some aspect of your life (such as your job) perhaps you've lost sight of your real work. Re-focusing on that work will allow your priorities to become clearer and your life will re-align.
Last week In Part I of this post, I began to detail (by request!) what lead up to my breakdown at work several years back, I ended just as I was getting married at age 26.
Six months following our wedding my wife and I settled into our new home and proceeded to make it into our dream house. Needless to say we spent beyond our means but hey, isn't that what you're supposed to do?! Our place was a beacon of minimalism and cleanliness.
As the resident Felix Unger I spent every Wednesday cleaning the three levels from top to bottom so that when Jenny got home from work everything was pristine. We were childless for about five years and had only ourselves to focus on. Eventually however, we got into the baby making business and by the time I was 35 we had four children.
With little crumb-crunchers running around my perspective began to change and I became more and more dissatisfied with the business my dad had turned over to me when he retired. I finally couldn't take it anymore and with my wife's support decided to turn over the business to my older brother so I could go back to college full time.
Sometimes it feels like its all a struggle...some days I feel like I went down the wrong path and life and am fighting to correct it. I had a great job that I really liked, it was certainly a challenge but it was fun and I loved it. Then the economy took a downturn along with my income and the kids were not getting a good education in school (another story in itself) so things got pretty stressful. I had a friend closer to home that had been running an IT services startup, and had been trying to recruit me for two years to be his first official employee. The pay seemed more stable than my other tech consulting/sales job in the music industry. So after much thought I moved my family and took the job. Very quickly however I realized this was a mistake, but it was too late...there was no going back. The startup was not even remotely in a financial position to make my wages and within three months I was out. WOW...also since I was considered a contract employee I was not eligible for unemployment, nothing, zero, zip...so here I was stuck up a creek without a paddle.
I spent the next few days going on lots of walks, thinking about what to do. The plan was to some day start my own business but I certainly was not ready now. Here I was stuck in a city I had lived only three months, with no savings, no funding, no income and no network to even meet customers. Needless to say I was stressed. So I decided, right then and there, I don’t need to chase anyone for a paycheck. I will generate my own income one way or another. So I started taking contract work from sites like onforce and started a production/design company with no knowledge of how to run one or how to get customers or anything. It was TOUGH, a massive struggle, especially when we were falling behind on our bills anyway. Every morning I would wake up and apply for jobs, then try and find customers and then contract tech work.
Several times we had our power shut off, and were constantly behind on rent. My wife found a few temp jobs, then got a nice full time one. But the job market was not kind on either one of us. I thought for sure I would be kicked out of my house and my family would have to move in with my parents. It was devastating. I remember seeing work orders come through on onforce to fix TV’s, and I thought “I have no idea how to fix a TV, im a tech guy with a audio engineer/IT background” Then when things got bad I figured “Well if I am losing my house anyway, who cares if I break a TV its not like they can sue me, I don’t have any money” So I starting fixing TV’s, and you know what, it was EASY work. Then I started working on servers, and doing vonage installs and I could do them. I could do them all, once in a while I had a contract job that would really stump me, but I would struggle through it. Customers started coming in and I started making websites for local businesses. I made some money from composing music and video production as well. I had applied for about two hundred jobs at this point, and gotten a few interviews but none of them offered enough money for me to be interested. By now I was almost making 40k from design and contract work, but the income was all over the map. I remember making $5000 one month and $500 the next.
We bought groceries every few days in small amounts as we had money. Now 40k was not NEAR the kind of money I was accustomed to making and is certainly not enough to raise a family, but I am still proud of that number. Just imagine being dropped in a city where you know no one and have ZERO resources and go make a living. Try it, I dare you. Do it with a rent payment and a family to feed. It took years off my life, but it really changed my perspective about life and the system in general.