(4 ways to find peace if it isn’t)

In every crowd, there’s at least one person who figured out what they wanted to be in middle school and never looked back.

But what if you didn’t (or don’t) have a strong vision for your career? Maybe you fell into a career path (or several) that paid the bills but wasn’t your true passion. It’s served you well. There are lots of aspects you enjoy, but you can’t say you’ve hit upon your life’s mission.

Do we need to find a work equivalent of ‘The One’ in order to be happy and fulfilled? I think not. Here are some thoughts and ideas that might help you relax:

1. Happiness is an inside job (pun intended).

A famous person once said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

We either decide to be happy and appreciate the good, or by default, we feed our misery. Which will it be? Say this to yourself: “Even though this isn’t my dream job, I appreciate the paycheck / people / short commute / stability.”

2. It’s a cultural habit to complain about work.

In the US, at least, people have a tendency to complain about their jobs. It’s an unconscious habit. But part of being human is the need to pay our dues in the form of work, unless you’re a trust fund baby or heir/ess. The problem with complaining is that whatever we’re focusing on tends to grow. If you truly have nothing good to say about this job, change the subject (and skip to #4).

3. If you’re bored at work, learn something new.

Ask someone to teach you part of their job. Volunteer for a new project or initiative. Become a subject matter expert. Attend a conference or trade show. Trade tasks (you give up something you dislike and take on something that a teammate dislikes). Take a class related to your work. Offer ideas on how to improve things.

As a baby copywriter, Alexandra Penney, former editor at Glamour magazine, created a list of improvements and turned it in to her then-boss. When she was called in to Human Resources (thinking she was going to be fired), they asked if she’d like to be promoted (she said yes). Challenge yourself to add value. Or keep doing your same old work, but use your spare time for creativity, education, or a side hustle. Do whatever it takes to keep your creative juices flowing.

It’s human nature to think the grass is greener somewhere else. There will always be a job that’s “better” than the one you have. If you’re an entrepreneur, maybe you love the freedom and creativity, but the hours suck and you’re the last to get paid. If you’re an hourly employee, you love the stability but hate accounting for every hour you work. There’s always something.

Decide to focus on the good and let the rest go.

Do you expect your life partner to be your sole source of fulfillment? Maybe your significant other hates sports on TV but you’re crazy for it. Do you stop watching because s/he won’t? Or do you cultivate a separate friend group for sharing this part of your life?

It’s the same with work: are you expecting your job to be your only source of satisfaction?

4. If you’re really unhappy, make it your mission to find a new job.

A terrible commute, a horrible boss or co-workers, a failing company or a toxic culture? Find something new and leave, ASAP.

If you’re really and truly unhappy, then by all means find work that’s a better fit. But that’s another post for another day.

In the meantime, decide to give your attention to all the things you DO like while you’re earning a living.

After all, what you focus on, grows.