Work is a huge part of our lives. It’s the thing that takes up most of our days (and sometimes long into the night). It defines how we see ourselves and it defines how others see us.
There are a number of myths about career and work I hear my clients struggle with and I want to pull the curtain back a bit and talk about how these myths can prevent you from following the career journey that feels right for you.
Myth 1: The Myth of “Follow Your Bliss”.
There’s a famous quote by Joseph Campbell that we should “Follow our bliss.” Joseph Campbell was a master of myths and the common symbols different world stories shared.
I want to shatter a common work myth: the key to finding the right career for you isn’t following your bliss or passion. I know that’s a bit controversial, but let me explain.
Bliss and passion are states of ecstasy. How many people do you know walking around in their professional lives like they’re at the club? For too many people, pursuing a state of bliss can be a fool’s errand. It leads to the endless search for the perfect job that will make you happy every day. Spoiler alert: it doesn't exist.
So instead, let’s reframe that. Instead of looking for bliss, your goal is to find work that is engaging and meaningful for you.
And those last two words are the most important of all: For You.
Not for your parents or for your best friends or because someone else did something inspiring and you want to copy that… the goal is to find what is engaging and meaningful for you.
Engaging work may not look like a state of bliss. It might be challenging, but in a good, stretch-your-skills kind of way. It might be tiring, and involve your whole being, but in a good way.
Meaningful work may not look like passion. It is work that aligns with your values, so that you feel you are adding value.
Engaging and meaningful work feels like different things to different people. Only you can define what is engaging and meaningful to you.
Myth 2: I Know What Success Looks Like.
Let’s talk about money. Money is a big reason why we all work but studies have shown that there is no correlation between money and happiness. True, we need to have our basic needs met—rent, food, clothes, utilities, etc. —but the amount of money we have left over doesn’t determine our happiness.
Prestige is another goal, likely for you or many of your friends. After all, you’ve spent most of your life training to “be somebody”, striving ever higher to be more successful in a career.
Well here’s the kicker: Engaging and meaningful work has nothing to do with how prestigious your job is or how much money you make.
Now many of you might say, “Tess, that’s easy to say. But I’ve been working for years to get to this point, I’m not going to throw it all away to work for minimum wage.”
That’s fine. But that’s not my point. I’m not suggesting you can’t make money or have a nice title. What I am suggesting is that you get curious about whether you’re only pursuing those things at the expense of your own happiness.
Look at how much you value money. See how much you value titles. Then compare that with what engages you and what is meaningful for you. See where there is alignment or mismatch. Give yourself permission to be honest with yourself. If money weren’t in the equation what would you change?
Myth 3 – Career is Everything.
So, what if your career was not your primary focus?
The other big myth that is floating out there is that you have to have this big, amazing career that overshadows every other aspect of your life.
Guess what? There is no law that says that your job has to be your life and your identity. Sometimes your job is just your job. You should enjoy it but what if it was just your way to pay the bills?
"There is no law that says that your job has to be your life and your identity."
There are many people who are out there who love to travel and don’t want to just travel 2 weeks every year but want to go and travel for months on end. If that is what makes you feel most fulfilled – Then why can’t you do it?
There is also a lot of pressure in our own professions to move up the ladder, but what if “becoming a manager” means that you have to stay late? While your parents may think you are crazy for not wanting that new title, a raise and all the other perks that come with management, but maybe you love your 6:00pm Zumba class followed by slam poetry every Wednesday?
You have permission to enjoy your life however you want. Sometimes your career is secondary to how you want to live your life.
I’ve found over the years that if you want to gain confidence at work, you need to stop believing the myths and start focusing on what makes up a meaningful and successful career.
By challenging some of these myths and deciding for yourself how you want your career to look, you’ll be able to look at your career with new eyes. Most of all, you’ll be able to get realistic about what true success looks like.