Finding the right career path

Image: Alejandro Escamilla

Why pursuing the dream job may not be the best choice

We often hear that our goal in life should be to find a career path that enables us to spend our lives doing what we love. We should find an employer or a path of employment that pays us to do the very thing in life we love to do. Pursue the dream job with everything we’ve got, we’re told.

For some people, this may be possible, but for many it’s just not. And sometimes, even if it is possible, it may not be advisable. Having what we love being attached to a paid job – with all the expectations that entails – may not be a good choice at all.

None of this is to say we shouldn’t have dreams or things we love to do. I’m not saying we should give up on pursuing doing what we love. I’m just saying that attaching what we love to a career path may not be realistic or wise.

What if, instead of endlessly trying to find an illusory dream job, we focus instead on a job that we enjoy, pays the bills, and gives us the freedom and space to pursue what we love outside of work?

Life is about compromise. Better to make some sensible compromises than to waste a life in pursuit of the unattainable. This is where we need to be honest with ourselves – and empower those around us to be honest with us too.

Sometimes, we simply don’t have enough talent to turn the thing we love into a career path. There’s nothing worse than seeing someone appear on a talent show, pursuing their dream, and yet it is apparent to everyone but themselves that their talent level just isn’t high enough. (I’m being polite here!)

Some things in life are meant to be hobbies. To try and make them into more than that is a waste of our time, effort, and money. Better to find an enjoyable job that provides the foundation from which we can pursue what we love on the side, as a hobby.

Making these kind of choices is hard. Being able to see with the kind of clarity to make wise decisions is easier on paper than in reality. This is where the people around us can play such a critical role. Sometimes their perspective may warn us away from investing too much in something that is unlikely to bring the reward we would like. But it works the other way too. They can also encourage us to keep going when we’re ready to give up. They can see the possibilities and know we just need to keep working hard and the right doors will open.

Life is what we make it. There’s no such thing as a perfect life or a perfect job. Finding a path through life that maximises our potential is far from easy. It requires wisdom and compromise. There will be ups and downs. We’ll take wrong turns. The important thing is to keep going. To keep pursuing a meaningful life. And that might look different in one season of life from the next. What’s right for now might not be what’s right for then.

We have to remain true to ourselves and our values. Be self-aware. Pursue the wisdom of others. Choose to keep growing, no matter whether it’s a high or a low point. And not to make all of life’s focus about ourselves. When thinking about our path through life, our mindset needs to be one of using our gifts and talents to serve others and make the world a better place. If that is our guiding framework, it’ll behard to be far wrong, even if we do make the occasional wrong turn.

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