Boring job vs. satisfying vocation

In Changing life, Life goals, Productivity on February 4, 2012 at 4:23 pm

“If you place a thing into the center of your life, that lacks the power to nourish. It will eventually poison everything that you are, and destroy you. As simple a thing as an idea; or your perspective on yourself of the world. No one can be the source of your intent. It lies within, in the center.” 

Faithless, Liontamer (Outrospective, 2001)


“Money,” as it has been said, “makes the world go round,” and working is what most of us have to do to get it.

Because income is, to a lesser or greater degree, so important in all of our lives, it is easy and tempting to settle for a job or career that will bring us the income needed, whether it is just to get by or be able to buy and experience what we’d like to.

More often than not, this happens no matter the quality of the job settled for or whether the career is actually something you really want to do.

That isn’t to say that, as some might argue, you should not stay in work you do not enjoy.

You might be tempted to take a different path in your career if something really isn’t making you happy and you want something more fulfilling – that’s a good temptation, hold onto it.

But, if you want to make a move, it might mean you have to bide your time (especially the way the economy is at the moment) so that you can make the right move – a calculated and well thought out decision – when a good opportunity comes by, instead of jumping into something out of frustration.

I think there is actually some merit in staying in a job you don’t enjoy. Not forever, but for a little while.

I definitely wouldn’t have said that years ago, but then again, I was much more hasty then and sometimes acted on impulse, when perhaps it would have been better to rein it in a bit.

No harm done, everything has worked out well.

Getting through a dull job – skill up as much as possible

However, if you’re finding it difficult in a job right now, and it isn’t that easy to find a new job, one way to make things a little easier mentally, might be not to think of things  in terms of income or even ‘a job’, but in terms of ‘skills’ and learning and disciplines.

Is there something you can find in your situation to help build up your armoury of skills so that when the next opportunity comes along, you’re well equipped?

It might be the simple skill and practice of discipline – turning up and seeing something through from start to finish, everyday, even when things are feeling sterile.

Might be learning how to delivery quality work and maintain focus, even if you’d rather be somewhere else?

Could it be a technical skill you could actually improve if you switched your daily mental mantra from “Oh God. I hate this place” to “What skills can I get out of this place?” In that way you’re also likely to also be giving something back to you’re colleagues and your organisation, instead of sapping energy from yourself and everyone else.

Maybe you can throw yourself into something a bit different at work – take up a new task or harder challenge, e.g. learning presentation skills, seeing if you can organise some new experience to learn something new – and not necessarily for extra pay – in another part of the organisation to learn something new?

Building a different foundation for future work – be honest

In a situation where your job is pretty stifling and you feel taking you nowhere rather quickly, it might also be a good opportunity to start reviewing (or for some people, to really think about for the first time) what interests you the most, what direction you might really like to follow, what aspects you don’t like about your job and what are the practical things you need to do to make a managed and calculated change?

It is also an opportunity to be honest with yourself and ask how is it you’ve ended up doing a job that isn’t really juicing you up most days, even if the income is okay or even staggering.

This leads me to my next point – you don’t want to make a career out of doing jobs you don’t enjoy.

Better to make a career out of something(s) you’ve some genuine interest in.

Now, I don’t think it completely possible for every single person to always be in a job they find thrilling and stimulating everyday.

A lot of people do manage to do this, which is good for them.

A lot of people don’t always, or at least not at every stage of their working life. A lot of people settle for “alright” rather than “great” when it comes to work.

If one part of you feels brow beaten and down about the job you’re doing, and the other part of you is urging you to try something different and something you might enjoy, something has probably gone off track somewhere, at some point, in your life.

Of course, it might be something totally unavoidable and out of the blue that has happened but has had a major emotional/physical impact and knocked you for six or left you numb for months, even years.

That’s hard, very hard, and we’re all subject to the shifts of life and Nature.

But there might be other reasons for your current predicament in work.

Are you doing the job or career someone else wants you to and sacrificing the ideas you’re really interested in pursuing?

It staggers me how many of us fall ‘victim’ to the wishes and dreams of parents, family or community at the expense of our own hopes.

  • Remember, your parents don’t always know what is best for you, but are not immune to asking you to do, what, in truth, is best for them. Not really fair on you.

Or, it might be that you doubt your ability to learn something new and make a change?

  •  Okay, true. It could be that you are not good at certain skills needed in another kind of job or career. But, does that have to be the case forever?
  • For example, I am crap at mathematical equations; always have been. I was not much good at science in school, except biology. It was the only science I could grasp, and even then I just managed to pass exams! But, years later, fortunate to live in a country with ample educational opportunities, and in a world with the internet, it doesn’t mean I continue to doubt the capacity of my mind and brain to learn mathematical equations or another science, if I really wanted to go off and pursue my curiousity about epigenetics, neurology or cosmology. And now my day job is in an industry where the main product owes everything to physics. Nothing is set in stone!
  • I’m not saying it would be easy to learn new skills and subjects. Might not even pleasant! But it is probably possible!! Even if you’re 60!!
  • It might be that you need to find a good enough teacher, or different method of learning, practice and absorbing information that works for you.

Or are you stuck in a job that is ill-suited because of a low belief in your abilities and capacity to cope?

  • There must be times in your life where you thought you couldn’t cope, with something, but actually you came through, even if it was difficult and painful. You still have a beating heart.
  • Now, there might be ways of making sure you don’t let a new situation, or change in direction inflict unnecessary mental stress or emotional difficultly or pain on yourself.
  • Taking things in bite-sized chunks is a good starting point. But, the point is, you came through. You thought you could not cope! You did.

What if you are worried about what others would say if you announced you were going to make changes in your career aspirations and goals?

  • People will always talk, because people always have something to say, an opinion to offer; a judgment to make, or an unhelpful criticism to offer. You can’t always change that so that they approve of you. Have you considered, maybe they never will, no matter how hard you try. So, doesn’t that lead to the question – why bother?
  • It is also a bottomless pit. You may also never be able to be good enough, even if you do fit in to what they want, as they’ll probably find something else to pick on. Remember, the issue is probably with them, not you, so don’t get confused or let them confuse you. You don’t have to accept, or believe opinions.

Could it be because of financial, family or community obligations you feel that it would be wrong to ‘neglect’? Okay, fair enough.

  • There might well be legitimate reasons why you can’t make a shift, e.g. looking after the kids. But, have you actually really thought it through, done your research and properly considered whether it is possible for you to make any change in the direction you’d like to go in – whether it is a couple of steps or a few big steps. You may reach the conclusion – I can’t, not right now, not for a long time. That is okay.
  • The important thing is that you at least do yourself of the justice of considering things properly – not to use existing obligations/dependents as an excuse.

Or maybe you are just a bit too lazy. Can’t help there!

Finding your vocation is the ultimate pastime

The best thing, in my humble opinion, if at all possible, is to take the time, actions and courage to discover, pursue and live your vocation.

It isn’t always straightforward to discover however.

Not everyone knows or can feel what they are most powerfully drawn to do.

We often wilt, myself included, under the certainty of those great souls who know so very clearly who they are and what they want and pursue.

But they’re no more special than anyone else in truth.

Sometimes it might take years of experiment, trial and error to come across what your vocation is.

Circumstances that seemed inexplicable or difficult, or situations that were even happy and joyful, might with hindsight (and a bit of foresight and an open mind) lead you to your vocation.

In my view – a vocation – is a much more powerful way of looking at your working life – the thing you are going to spend the majority of your time doing in life.

Do you want to spend this time doing something you love, and hopefully for decent pay. Or something you loathe, no matter how much is on offer?

For me, a vocation is something that moves you and fires you up, even on the crap days.

Something that you’re prepared to work really hard for and pour your heart and soul into despite the rewards (or lack of) you might get.

Something that, once you gone through all the other possible options for different kinds of work, you think, “actually I would rather do this, rather than that” with the limited amount of time I have on this planet!

A vocation is the thing that brings you great joy in the work that you do.

Above all, a vocation is even better, if in someway it gives back, as well as allows you to receive.

Time and work spent in service, doing something that helps bring others something fruitful, as well as yourself.




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