THINK ABOUT IT: job, career, or calling?

Today’s THINK ABOUT IT comes from a passage I read yesterday from Happy for No Reason, by Marci Shimoff. As I’ve mentioned in the past, this book though similar to a lot of positive psychology research I’ve read, but does have home runs as well.

From reading comments, emails, and Dream Reporter submissions, I know MML has a huge following of people who are itching to follow their purpose or passion but are at the moment still at “desk jobs” doing something that seems uninspiring in comparison to their vision for their life as a shop owner, yoga instructor, designer, or life coach. But what Marci points out in this passage below, is that the job you have now can bring happiness or sadness, depending only on your personal perspective.

One day an old woman walked up to a dusty building site where three, strong, young men were working hard laying bricks. She walked up to the first man and asked him what he was doing. He replied rather rudely, “Can’t you see? I’m laying bricks. This is all I do all day– I just lay bricks.” She then asked the second man what he was doing. He replied, “I’m a bricklayer and I’m doing my work. I take pride in my craft, and I’m happy that what I do here feeds my family.” As she walked up to the third man, she could see that his eyes were full of joy and his face was as bright as the day. When she posed the same question to him, he replied with great enthusiasm, “Oh, I’m building the most beautiful cathedral in the whole world.”

– Happy for No Reason, pg. 218

Her point about choosing to have a good attitude about whatever it is you happen to be doing reminded me of another example I read in the book, Women, Food, and God, by Geneen Roth. Geneen speaks about how a woman she knows was disappointed by the mundane tasks she was assigned her first year out of law school at her first law firm. The woman’s purpose and excitement for law was shattered as she did “grunt work” day in and day out.

In the evenings, this woman began to eat food to escape the feelings of disappointment concerning her career and purpose. Since the woman was married and her husband couldn’t leave his job, she felt stuck where she was doing something that made her unhappy. Over time, the emotional eating caused a significant weight gain. At that point she redirected her energy on losing the weight and successfully gave herself something else to monitor and control: her eating. She wanted to escape the pain she felt from her career and replaced it with a decoy: weight loss.

But Geneen points out in the book that the woman’s problem with her weight, it was her unhappiness in that position. She even went further to say that the woman had three choices:

  1. Continue to stay unhappily in her job and in a cycle of emotional eating, focusing on the weight problem instead of the source of her unease.
  2. Find a way to make peace with her position and be completely present and focused throughout the day, recognizing the purpose of this phase of her life. And to choose to find happiness and acceptance within herself.
  3. Or to leave the position entirely and find a new job.

Neither the second or third choices she laid out are better than the other, both allow her to make peace with what she was resisting previously resisting: her job.

Though not everyone working in a non-passion career is unhappy, it is worth contemplating how we can make peace with where we are and find the service that lies within this point in our lives.

I personally want to be eventually living and working 100% spreading the message of MML – making that my vocation and career. But I recognize that Jess LC is still a very important part of my path towards that goal right now. And I find the more I pursue both the message and the jewelry with meaning, the more successful and happier I am.

I think that’s something we all can work on, wherever we are in this moment:

do what we can,

right where were are,

with as much purpose and service as possible.

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  1. This is brilliant, Jess! It’s especially a good reminder for those of us (read: me) who are really good at focusing on the future. It’s very grounding and does exactly what you said–reminds me to be present and to be at peace with this phase in my life and the function that it serves!

  2. Jill

    This is so true for motherhood as well… A lot of the time I get caught up in the frustrations and challenges of motherhood (snotty noses, temper tantrums, endless chores) instead of focusing on the joy (albeit crazy) of little ones and my duty in shaping to-be adults. I love the quote at the end in yellow… I am writing that down!

  3. Jessica

    Lovely post … I could really use this reminder – pretty much every day! I haven’t “gotten to where I’m going” yet – but are we ever really there? Once we achieve that dream … a new dream comes along and we think everything will just be better/great/happier once we get THERE. So the moral is to plan and prepare for the future, but live in the now.

  4. Freck

    This is definitely something I struggle with, so I found this post to be so inspiring. Thank you for posting about this! It really is such a delicate balance. If someone is at their desk job and waiting for their next big venture rather than focusing on the positives of the desk job, they won’t be happy. However, if the person is focused on their desk job even though they don’t really love it, how will they ever know if something better is out there? Like I said, I struggle with this often, and end up trying not to think about it in the end because I tend to be happier this way, as week and unconfrontational as that seems 🙂 Again, thank you for posting this!

  5. Anna

    I finished reading the book Happy for No Reason 2 weeks ago. This chapter in her book had a lot of meaning for me. Even though my present position is my career, I still feel that it is not my calling. But recently, I finally realized my calling. I just need to take action to get there and take one day at a time. Thanks for posting this. Sometimes I get so busy so this post is a reminder for me.

  6. Flavia

    Great post! Like many others, I am on the same boat. I’ve been realizing lately that there are some good reasons for me to stay in the position I’m in now (while working on my dream career on the side), but it’s still tough to go to the office day in and day out. I really need a constant reminder of choice #2 to get me through!

  7. Kristi

    This is such an important message. And something way too easy to forget. It’s also vital in relationships as well, not just “work life”.

  8. Kate

    Funny, I just read an article on Oprah’s site about ‘designated issues’ – they sound the same as the law gal focusing on her weight instead of her job. It’s a quick read as well, and the article is available here:

    I don’t love my job, but I don’t hate it either. It’s getting me out of debt, keeping my dogs fed and I have wonderful coworkers who make it easy for me to do my job. I’d rather be a ‘freegan’ with some passive income for vacations and food, but this is what I need until I am OUT of debt 🙂 Thanks for the great post! I’m printing out those last lines and carrying them around with me.

  9. sandyb

    Wonderful insight here Jess, and a great intention for JessLC!
    Have been enjoying your blog for a couple of months and I’m always inspired by your open nature and the people you present here. Although I’m sure you hear this all the time, very refreshing to see a positive take on the bumps in the road.

  10. This is a great point. THe job right now might not be perfect, but why waste negative energy on being miserable? Enjoy what we can now. I need to remember that more often as I know many other people are in careers they don’t love, but they’re not whining about it.

  11. rose

    it’s almost like you are reading my mind… spooky but totally wonderful advice!x

  12. brenda

    This post is such an echo of whispers and thoughts rolling around my head lately. Being a proactive go go go kinda gal, it’s hard to stay present and see the benefits and possible opportunities my current situation has.
    Focusing on the future goals is good, but only seeing it can blind us to the good of ‘now’. Even if it’s just having the time to think through your goals properly and knowing with certainty that they are true to what you want. Not just as an escape from your present situation.

    Thanks for sharing this insight Jess!

  13. Dear Jess,

    Thank you for including one of my stories in today’s message. And you are so right–The more we can live in the moment, the happier we will be. You, your readers, and I have everything we need to be content right now. Your real work, no matter what job you are in, is to do whatever it takes to live in the moment and know that you can be content now. It doesn’t mean you aren’t working on future goals, it means that you can be happy and fully alive while working toward them. May your journey bring you much joy.

    Geneen Roth

  14. This is brilliant! Thank you for linking back to it in today’s post. The three line quote at the end is perfect for me right now in my life! Do you have any steps for how to change your mindset though? I feel like I go back and forth with a good attitude to a bad attitude about my work.

  15. Jess

    Hi Victoria, I’m not sure how to change your mindset except to focus on what you have control over: your thoughts and attitudes. (I also think that everyone feels this way, it’s impossible to always feel GREAT! all the time about anything we do.)

    I’d also suggest if you are spiritual, turning there for meaning in the tough moments. And as I always mention, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People helped me!

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