I intended this fifth article to be the last in the series; however, I have been receiving a number of questions from readers, and I wanted to answer the most common ones before I finished. For those who are coming in late to this conversation, I will summarize my philosophy.
I will choose to spend my time pursuing work:
- About which I am Passionate
- With which I can utilize my God-given Skills and talents
- Which is Profitable (where I can earn a living)
- Which is Needed by the world (or which seeks God’s glory)
- Which is Sustainable (will not bore me or burn me out)
- Which allows me to live my life in Balance (Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual)
- AND I will repeat this process over and again, so that there is Diversity in my work (many simultaneous careers)
Are you saying that it is not possible to live a fulfilled life with a single career?
While this is not my ideal (I prefer multiple, simultaneous careers), I do think that a person can find contentment with a single career. It may take some time to find the right career, the right company, and/or the right location. This may take some education or additional training. This may take a little soul-searching. This may take some sacrifice and risk, especially if you are planning on working for yourself. But it is definitely possible to find a career that falls in line with criteria 1-6 (listed above). Most importantly, it takes a person willing to be proactive.
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”
– Jim Rohn
I also think it is important to point out that the goal is to get as close as you can to this ideal. There are a number of limiting factors, and these limitations will vary depending on each person’s personality, desires, and circumstances. For some, it may take years to get where you want to go. That is okay, just don’t give up striving.
“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”
– Bruce Lee
Working a bunch of part-time jobs sounds like a nice theory, but what do you really know about it?
I was 21 years old when I started my graphic design business. It had a fairly slow start, so I began working for a local radio station on the weekends. I also worked a few days a week for a local landscaping/lawn mowing service. I didn’t realize it then, but I now know that I was working fewer hours per week and earning more money than when I was employed full-time by a single company. My goals at that time were very different than what they are today. When thinking back to that period in my life, I used to say that it was a unique and special time. I don’t agree with that sentiment any more. I was enjoying my day to day life. I was paying all my bills. I had little stress. So, yes, it was a special time, but it should not have to be unique. I would like to do that again. In fact, I plan to.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Having multiple, simultaneous careers sounds great… if you are a physician and can work part-time and still earn a lot of money!
It would be ridiculous to say that your wages shouldn’t be considered. While I would love for our salary not to be a factor, it has to be. This is why it is included in the list of criteria above (#3). Yes, it will be easier to accomplish my goals with a part-time physician’s paycheck. This is one of the reasons I went into medicine in the first place, but it was not my main reason. It was not even in the top three reasons. At the time that I decided to go back to school to become a physician, I did consider the salary. If I was going to make a drastic change, I wanted it to be in the direction that allowed me to be the sole supporter of our family so that my wife did not have to work. We knew we wanted to have children, and I knew my wife wanted to be a stay at home mom. If I had to undergo school and training for 11 years, the reward of a good salary was obviously considered. However, now I am choosing to forgo a steady, well-paid career so that I can be a healthy, whole, and fulfilled person. It is easier, but not easy, to do this as a physician, because I still have a family to care for. Most people think about all the money I could be making if I worked full-time as a physician, if I went into private practice, if I worked 60-80 hours a week… well, I don’t care to do that, regardless of what others think about it.
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
– Henry David Thoreau
A recent article published on the NBC News website documents America’s “intentional poor”. It is an interesting article, and it supports the sentiment that runs through this series. While I am not necessarily recommending living in poverty, there seems to be a growing trend in the United States of people choosing to live far below their earning potential. (link to the NBC News article)
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Unfortunately, I believe money is often an excuse people use to avoid doing something seen as drastic. We would rather be “safe” and keep our song inside (as Thoreau would say), than risk that security and sing our song at the top of our lungs. That song is our passion, and we are too often too scared to share it for fear of rejection or failure. We choose a sad sort of prison where we never feel free and we don’t feel contentment and we often don’t feel happy, because the perception of safety is too strong and the threats of loss are too great. But as I have already discussed in earlier parts of this series, that safety is not really there. It is an illusion. The longer we buy into it, the longer it will take for us to find contentment in our lives.
Because I make a higher salary, I think some people don’t take me serious. They think I am either disingenuous or a little self-deceived. But salary has nothing to do with it. This last weekend, I spent about half the day helping a local church with a soup-selling fundraiser (I’ll be writing about this soon). I know it was not coincidence that I met a certain man at the same time I am writing this series. This almost 50-year-old man had spent too long searching for joy while believing in the myth of the perfect job. He was born on this island in the Azores where I currently live. He left at age 13 with his family for the promise of a better life in the United States. His abusive father died a few months later, and he drifted around with family members until he finally dropped out of high school. He spent the next 30 years working construction and finding that he had real skills working with his hands… but he was not happy. He was riddled with anxiety and depression. Four years ago, he finally gathered enough courage, and he decided to leave a well-paid job, a very nice place to live, and a dysfunctional relationship in the U.S. to move back to the Azores with an unemployment rate of over 15% (and likely higher depending on who is releasing the data). He has since been working odd jobs and living with family and friends. He told me that he has never been as happy in the last 30 years as he is now. He said he should have moved years ago, but it was hard to break from the life he was told he was supposed to have, the life he was told was supposed to give him happiness. He told me that true happiness had nothing to do with money, and it definitely had nothing to do with the false sense of security that a job provides you. He said that happiness was about being with family and friends who love him no matter what. It is about being part of a community. It was about waking up and realizing that there was no more anxiety and no more depression. It was about being able to smile, a real smile that came from inside (he said this has he pounded his chest), a smile that came out on its own, a genuine smile originating from the soul. He smiled with a look of relief as he told me that, at one time, he really thought he would never find that kind of happiness again.
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”
– Helen Keller
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