Imagine that you are making more money than you’ve ever made in your life. On a regular basis, your day is filled with brainstorming and strategy sessions that include the highest ranking executives within the business. Your calendar is loaded with important phone calls, your inbox is bubbling over with communications, reports, and status updates regarding the top revenue generating business initiatives. You get to travel to various major cities across the country, and you have an expense account through which to do so. Annual bonuses arrive every December like a Christmas gift from a rich relative! And oh, the annual salary increases…they are pretty posh.
Those among your colleagues, friends, and relatives relish at the thought of having a job like yours. One that wreaks of stature and importance. One that provides quite a comfortable lifestyle. One that affords your family the opportunity to travel and enjoy some of the best sites the world has to offer. One that allows you to be involved in very important and very meaningful work.
Yes, the work is meaningful—to someone—just not you.
The money is awesome—but the money, interestingly enough, is not enough—not for what it’s costing you.
You complete a series of mental and emotional gymnastics just to get yourself to the office every morning. You do your job, and you do it quite well. As a matter of fact, your heart’s conviction to work at everything as unto the Lord has actually allowed you to advance your career quite steadily (Col. 3:23). You tell yourself that you should be grateful because there are so many people that would love to do what you do. So many who’d love to have the opportunities you have, and enjoy the perks, privileges, and flexibility that are inherent in your job. You know this because they tell you, anytime time you attempt to pour out your heart about the weight of it all in contrast to how unsatisfied you are with work.
Can you imagine it? Have you ever set your sights on a high-octane, high paying job as the top priority in your job search, only to find that it leaves you feeling empty—completely drained of the very attributes that give you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment?
At about the eight or nine year mark in Corporate America, I began to meet more and more people who fit into a category of folks I could call “survivors”. Abandon the qualifying traumatic experience that you would normally consider necessary for one to be called a survivor, and instead think of these people as those who have given up on the hope of finding fulfillment and any sense of purpose in their jobs. I realized that there was quite a few people, present company included, who were just going through the motions because the money was right, and the culture and environment were just good enough to make moving to another job not worth the risk.
Trust me when I say, it is better to pursue your dreams and face the uncertainties around earnings potential and job security than to live a life that is low in risk and high in regret. If we learned nothing else from the great recession, didn’t it teach us that there is no such thing as job security? Besides, what if you are wildly successful in the endeavors that comprise your dream?
Through a series of misguided decisions, I ended up spending the early years of my adult life building someone else’s dream life. On average, we spend 30% of our waking moments at work. That’s a lot of time to spend making a living, only to be existing, and not truly living. Just because you are good at a thing, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should pursue your life’s work in that area, especially if it doesn’t leave you with a sense of purpose and meaning. Look beyond just your skills and abilities. You might be very skilled in an area that doesn’t excite you, and building your career in that area just for financial means will eventually leave you feeling like, “they can’t pay me enough,” because money alone can not fill that place created for purpose.
If you feel like you are on the hamster wheel, just going through the motions vocationally, you might reconsider your work. If how you spend your days doesn’t make you excited most of the time, and you spend your off-hours volunteering or hustling in the space that energizes you and fuels you to make it through the work day—dare I challenge you to consider that you have a passion brewing within, and that is where you should try to align your work experience.
Typically, being very good at what you do brings the reward of doing more of that work. Have you ever heard someone say they’ve been promoted and talk about how much less they have to do now? No. More money tends to mean more work. More responsibility. Wouldn’t you prefer to do more of what makes your heart sing rather than more of what just puts money in your pocket to buy things (or experiences) that will make your heart sing?
Look beyond skills and abilities, to consider your God-given talents and gifts. Look at what excites you, and what you are passionate about. Often times, we discount these “soft indicators” as just extra-curricular types of interests. Any desire that doesn’t fit into the traditional workforce or career path is dismissed as being just a dream, not to be pursued as a living. Or we think because we lack some skill set or resource that the dream is beyond our reach.
Whatever holds you back from believing that you can thrive and build a good life in the area of your dream, challenge it. If it means learning new skills, or pursuing a different education, or taking a pay cut, do not let that deter you.
Don’t worry about making a lot of money. Focus more on making an impact. Seek to thrive, not merely survive! Pursue work that is meaningful to you; work that doesn’t really feel like work because it allows you to release your God-given gifts and talents. When you are working in the area of your God-given abilities and giftedness, His favor and blessing will put you in positions to make the money (Prov 18:16, Deut. 8:18). More importantly,
when your work provides a sense of fulfillment and fills your days with meaning and purpose, you are more able to find contentment with the money you make.