The day has finished. We have spent today thinking about the following question:
Am I doing all I want with my existence?
How many of us have sat in our office or cubicle at work, our eyes glazing over the computer screen that has been in front of us for the past five hours, and wondered, “Is this really what life is? Am I doing all I want with my life?”
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to surveys, over 50% of the American workforce is dissatisfied with their jobs and it is not getting any better. Jobs are being outsourced, cut, and automated, and yet, we still do not feel satisfied with our jobs. This does not mean we are not grateful for having a job, but the work in which we are performing is no longer satisfying.
So what do we do about it?
“Wealth is the slave of a wise man. The master of a fool.” – Seneca
In Daniel H. Pink’s phenomenal book, Drive, he makes the argument that money, while a driving factor for living, does not constitute the full extent of what fulfills workers in today’s society. In the old days, companies would provide decent pays and nice bonuses to motivate their employees and keep them on track. In today’s world, however, this no longer works. Today’s workforce is looking to impact the world. The old workforce was moved by extrinsic motivations such as big paychecks and bonuses. Today, they are being replaced by workers who want to care about what they’re doing. These workers follow Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, where once they have their physiological and safety needs met, they look for their intrinsic desires to be fulfilled. They want to make an impact.
As Seneca reminds us:
“The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject… And so this knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them… Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced.”
We can debate the constructs of society and jobs and capitalism all day long, but that does not speak directly to our question of whether or not I am doing all I want with my existence. Intrinsically, am I pursing all I want? Am I fulfilled with all I have done or am doing? Or am I waiting?
This idea of having the life we want and not settling for less is a big component of Tim Ferris’ the 4-Hour Workweek. In it, he talks about how rather than fear technology and the loss of jobs, we can use them to our advantage to live the life we always wanted. If jobs are being outsourced and automated, why not take advantage of it? Why should we work for companies we do not even enjoy working for when we can create our own business? Why slave away at our job for 30+ years only to retire in our 60s with a cheap gold watch and medium sized retirement? To vacation and travel when our bodies are older and we cannot perform all the activities we once would have wanted to?
These are the thoughts that wander in the back of our minds as our eyes become more and more glazed over reviewing our spreadsheets and following the same old directions.
“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will.”
But we do have the power and desire to live the life we want, we just have to understand what it is and how to get there.
So how do we find our passion? How do we push our lives to fulfillment?
Tony Robbins talks about finding what you enjoyed as a child. We as children hold no fears about the world around us and whether or not we can do what we want. As children, there is an innocence that encompasses our ideas and our actions. Nothing is too big or small. As a child, if we want to do something or believe we can do it, we try to, regardless of how realistic those ideas are. But Tony explains that as we get older, we are afraid. The world has told us things are hard to accomplish and that we cannot do things – these are limiting beliefs.
As Marcus Aurelius reminds himself:
“My only fear is doing something contrary to human nature — the wrong thing, the wrong way, or at the wrong time.”
By not pursing a life that is fulfilling, we live an unfulfilled life.
So take the time. Reflect upon your life, your passions, what you would like to see yourself doing, what you can enjoy doing for work. This may not be easy. Often times, the hardest part for people is not the work to pursue their goals, but how to take the first step in the right direction. To see what they want, commit to it, and do the work necessary to achieve those desires.
When trying to understand your passion, remember Epictetus’ stance on money:
“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”
If you’re looking to just make money, you will run out of energy. If you’re looking to find a path that fulfills you and which you can enjoy, whether it be working for a non-profit or having your own business, if your intrinsic motivations are fulfilled, then you will find a way to make a living doing what you want.
The path to find your passion may not be so straightforward either. You may find yourself traveling many paths, doing many jobs, finding interests in many different things before you land on what you would like to do. This is a part of life. We stumble around in the dark looking for the light. Rather than fight against the new paths that form, we should learn to go with them, see where they take us, learn new skills, get out of our comfort zone. You never know what will come out of a new experience and thus, should explore these options when they arise.
I think most importantly though, we must remember and reflect upon what Marcus writes to himself:
“Receive wealth and prosperity without arrogance; and be ready to let it go.”
Money will come and go. People will come and go. We are here today but will be gone tomorrow. Our time is precious and is the most valuable asset we have. Do what you wish with your life. Pursue the job you want to pursue. But remember to do it in a smart way. Learn to minimize risk as much as possible. Don’t just quit your job to pursue a different career. Pursue something on the side, then make the jump. Or build a network of friends who will help you. Have a decent sized savings account to push you through the tough times when you decide to make the leap.
Just remember, it is your life. If you don’t feel like you’re doing everything you want to with it, be the change to it.
“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
Meditations -Marcus Aurelius
The Tao of Seneca – Volume I – Seneca the Younger, Presented/Prepared by Tim Ferris
The Tao of Seneca – Volume II – Seneca the Younger, Presented/Prepared by Tim Ferris
The Tao of Seneca – Volume III – Seneca the Younger, Presented/Prepared by Tim Ferris
Letters from a Stoic – Seneca the Younger
On the Shortness of Life – Seneca the Younger
Discourses – Epictetus
Drive – Daniel H. Pink
Awaken the Giant Within – Tony Robbins
Unlimited Power – Tony Robbins
How have we grown from this? Did we execute any differently today because of this? Do you feel that you have new tools to accomplish tomorrow?