Something strange happened after I quit my 9-5 office job.
It was odd. Very odd indeed.
Had someone given me a personality transplant whilst I slept?
And yet, I had changed. And I certainly wasn’t complaining; neither were any of the people who knew me.
For years, I’d been slowly suffocating in administrative support roles in large financial organizations.
For a time, it was pretty exciting. No other sector would have paid me what they did for the sort of work I was doing. And I was lucky to attend some fancy events, in rather swish venues. Free breakfast, free lunch and a lavish gift at Christmas were all part of the package.
But it wasn’t long before I noticed that the money and all the ‘freebies’ couldn’t fill the vast emptiness, which seemed to be growing inside me.
I was without direction. Without meaning. Without purpose. My skills weren’t utilized, and I was forever keeping my personality in check so as to ‘fit in’ with what was deemed appropriate for the corporate world I existed in.
I was stressed out, anxious and miserable. Some days, stepping out of the lift into the lobby, I was unable to hold back the tears.
It was on one such day, in August 2012, unplanned and without any sort of backup in place, I decided to leave that world behind. I wrote my letter of resignation and handed it to my manager.
I was unable to accept that my life as I knew it was all there was until I reached retirement age. I had to know whether work could give me the sense of purpose I so desperately craved, and whether it could bring meaning and fulfillment to my life.
I know now that it can.
I know now that our notion of work as something to be endured and suffered through is simply a concept we’ve collectively decided to agree on.
And we constantly reinforce this agreement to each other through our dialogue around work. Monday mornings at work often sounded like this:
‘How was your weekend?’
‘Ok, thanks. Just too short, as usual.’
And Fridays went something like this:
‘How are you?’
Oh, I’m sooo glad it’s nearly the weekend.’
And so we each accept that this is simply a normal part of our existence. Most people just aren’t lucky enough to be able to do work they enjoy. In our eyes, this is as true as the sky being blue and the grass being green.
And yet we live in a time when we are almost boundless in the ways in which we can earn a living. In fact, the limits seem only to be our imaginations.
So the problem, then, is that perhaps most of us haven’t given our imaginations any chance to breathe.
In the eighteen months since quitting my job I’ve rediscovered how to use my imagination and redefined my concept of work.
That emptiness I felt? It’s gone.
The stress and anxiety I had? They’ve melted away.
The purpose I craved? I’ve found it.
The changes I’ve seen in myself have been extreme and they’ve caused me to develop a new belief about work. One far healthier and more useful than the ones I previously held…
And that is that it’s our duty to find and do work we love.
1. A Simple Smile
I smile more these days. A lot more.
And a smile changes more than you think.
For ourselves, it reduces stress and blood pressure. And in the eyes of others makes us more likeable, more courteous, more competent and more attractive.
But what’s perhaps more important is the effect your smile has on others.
Smiles create smiles.
And by smiling more often, at more people, you’re doing the world a favour by passing on the multitude of benefits that smiling brings.
A smile can change so much and yet costs so little.
2. Be A Radiator, Not A Drain
I was so often the drain amongst my friends: the first to see the limits, instead of the possibilities of an idea. The one who spent their time moaning, complaining and dragging others down.
My friends tell me I’m different to be around these days. That I lift them up and inspire them. For the first time in my life, my time is in demand.
By improving your own life, you improve those of the people around you.
3. Be the greatest role model
I’m not yet a mother. But if and when I become one, I think one of the greatest gifts I could give my children is to show them by example that it’s worth pursuing your dreams.
What message are we giving the generations to come by being trapped in work that is uninspiring and demotivating? One of our greatest responsibilities, as I see it, is to show our children that they can change the world and that they absolutely shouldn’t settle for work that doesn’t make them come alive with excitement.
4. Have a bigger impact
Of course, even if you’re in a job you don’t particularly enjoy or find particularly fulfilling, you can still have a positive impact by doing your work to the best of your ability and with a positive attitude.
But imagine the magic you could create by transferring that positive attitude and determination to a cause that sets you on fire.
Imagine the impact you could have if you put your skills, strengths and energy to work for a project you believe in passionately.
Our impact is greatest, when working on the things that matter to us most.
5. Change The World
Is it too much to say that doing work you love can change the world?
I don’t think so.
Doing work you love means living with passion flowing through your veins. When you’re passionate about a cause you do everything you can to make a difference. And there are so many causes out there worth fighting for.
We all have something we’re passionate about, even if we haven’t yet unearthed it. And I truly believe that if we were each of us working at our passions, the world as we know it would be transformed, for the better.
You’re taught that to go after something you love (unless what you love happens to be something pretty conventional) is to disregard your ‘real’ responsibilities in life: the bills, your partner, and your family.
But what if you were taught that finding and doing what you love is a responsibility just as important as everything else?
Taking the time to find and pursue work you love is not an act of selfishness or irresponsibility, it’s your duty to the people you love and the world we live in.
In doing work you love, you become the best version of yourself. And the world will be much better off for having that version of you in it.