Before we start, a disclosure:
***For full transparency I will explain my situation. I chose a vocational degree at university and have continued in this field since graduating. I am fortunate that I love my job and that if I wasn't being paid to do it, I would still be reading about some of the topics I need for my profession. So I understand I am pretty lucky the first career path I went on that I enjoy it. I also have no kids, which I appreciate makes decision making a little easier. ***
It's very easy in life to fall into the trap of becoming complacent and go through the motions of each day. Coupled with the expectation of what society deems as 'normal', we can often find ourselves living a lifestyle we do not particularly enjoy, where in a perfect world we would choose not to continue with. So often we hear the advice 'do whatever makes you happy'. Too often decisions are made for the wrong reasons; to help please someone else or to adhere to the expectation of what is 'normal'.
Firstly I appreciate that some decisions, usually with regards to employment, need to factor in other variables other than happiness. For example, if the job pays poorly then the cost of living becomes higher, you struggle to meet bills which in turn increases stress and leads to unhappiness. This may also have a knock on effect if you have a partner or kids. So making a decision on employment to help please someone else is often incredibly important. Finally, 'normal' expectations or pathways in the work place is what drives us to perform, and create that purpose within our employment, to climb the ladder, gain the promotion and be in a better position we were compared to 5 years ago.
I feel there needs to be a balance. Making decisions purely based on financial gain, or what you think your peers would agree with, or to continue to fit a standard pattern seems odd. No-one when they retire, or on their death bed, regrets making a decision to follow their passion and pursue what excites them, over continuing on a path which makes them unhappy.
I love completing big adventures, to travel, be outdoors and most things related to fitness and sport. So my aim has always been to incorporate my love of my profession physiotherapy with these other interests. During my career I have attempted to make choices on what will make me happy. I realise this makes me sound selfish but.......
After graduating as a physiotherapist I was at a cross roads. Was I to take a job offered to me in the UK, which would have been a promotion within my field, or pursue my love of travelling and outdoors with a poorly paid ski guide job in France? I took the poorly paid ski guiding job which was then followed by a less recognised physiotherapy role in Asia. There is not a day since that I have regretted the decision to follow my passion and head to France. Thankfully this mindset of following my passion worked out well for me early on, which gave me the confidence to follow this path of picking the option which excited me and ultimately made me happy. More recently I had the opportunity for my fixed-term physiotherapy contract to be extended. The team was great, location amazing and I was learning loads. However, I had already planned to do my motorcycle trip from Kyrgyzstan back to England, and rationalized there will always be time to work, but very few occasions where I can ride my motorcycle across Central Asia. Again, I chose the option which made me happy, which I do not regret for a second.
I am not advocating everybody turn down a promotion that is offered to them, or quits their current job with no plan to support their family or pay off a mortgage. I'm merely floating the idea, planting the seed if you like, that in 5 years time or at the end of your career when you look back on your time; will you be happy with your decisions and the lifestyle it gave you? If not, are you in a position to change anything?
Don't answer so quickly, let that seed grow a little and allow the debate to develop in your head a little first!
What would you change?
If you are currently waking up to attend a job you don't enjoy, are constantly looking at the clock wishing away your time until the end of your shift, returning from work in a foul mood because you are working in an environment you detest, and ultimately only enjoy time away from work - perhaps you need to change something? This philosophy isn't exclusively for your employment either. Perhaps an evening class where you can practice your hobby has taken second place recently, that book you promised yourself you would finish still sits unread on the bookshelf, that project in the shed or garage remains unfinished as other things have got in the way, that musical instrument sits in the corner of the room collecting dust. It needn't be huge big changes, just small choices that can ultimately make you happier and more excited with your current lifestyle.
Go attend that evening class, pick up that guitar, finish that book, and get back in the shed and make the final touches to your awesome project - I guarantee you won't regret it.
Is there anything you can change that will make you a little happier?
In the next blog we will go through the second part of this blog on how to make it all happen - be a little selfish.