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Is Your Day Job Killing Your Dreams?Posted Monday, November 3, 2008, at 11:07 AM
Is your day job killing your dreams
Lisa Earle McLeod
Does everyone have a purpose? And what happens if you accidentally spend your life doing something else?
The "What do you want to be when you grow up?" question is a fun exercise when you're little, but it takes on more seriousness as you start to age.
When you're a young child, all you know is which jobs look cool and what looks more like fun than work. That's why you get answers like trash man, racecar driver or Slurpee tester at 7-Eleven.
But as you get older, stuff like paychecks, benefit packages and which careers are socially acceptable factor into the equation. Which might explain why you gave up your dream to become the Jack in the Box clown, and I quit telling my teachers I was going to be the first woman editor of Mad Magazine.
I have a high-school age daughter and I'm finding that teachers and counselors are asking the kids to think about their career choices at an increasingly younger age.
My daughter often comes home asking what various jobs pay, and I suspect this is because well-meaning counselors are discussing career options and, being presented with a bunch of job descriptions, the kids instinctively understand that they're supposed to choose one where they can make a decent living.
On the face of it, this is fine. I'm all for giving kids a vision for the future. But if you just talk about job descriptions, you're missing half the equation. It's kind of hard to pick a career when you haven't had any help in identifying your own skills and talents.
In today's high stakes test environment, I'm amazed at how little time schools are allowed to devote toward self-discovery. It's all about being good at everything and how well you do on the test.
Yet a lack of true self-knowledge is why so many people slog along in the wrong careers for decades. Personally, I think schools would be better off giving a Myers Briggs or similar personality test to the kids before they start asking them to chart out their entire lives.
But I may be a bit overly sensitive about this issue because, ever since my third-grade teacher told me I couldn't make a living telling snot jokes, I'm resentful of anyone who squelches a kid's natural calling.
Yes, in my spare time I'm not a frazzled mother or writer, I'm the Dream Defender.
So how do you connect the inner yearnings of your heart with a career choice?
This is where your original unfiltered answer to the "What do you want to be when you grow up?" question comes into play.
When you're a little kid, you have an innate sense of who you are and what you love to do. The world hasn't started messing with you yet.
Which means that the career you dreamed about at age 7 might be closer to your true life's purpose than the job you're doing at 35.
I do believe that we all have a purpose. Quite simply, our purpose is to put our skills and talents into the service of the universe. Your purpose might be big or it might be small, and it usually changes over time. But there's an element of what you loved doing as a child that holds the clues to your true calling.
So think back to those early dreams, because as it turns out you actually can make a living telling snot jokes.
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I can't take any more. The economy is tanking, the election is endless, and now it looks like I might have to sell my blood if I want to keep my kids in mac 'n cheese. Oh, and did I mention that, thanks to falling house prices, I probably owe more on my home than it's actually worth? I want to go back to bed, pull the covers over my head and have somebody wake me up when my 401(k) bounces back. I don't know about you, but I'm finding myself so jittery about, well everything, that it's all I can do to surf the net. Kind of ironic, isn't it? I should be working more, but I'm so anxious about my finances that I'm actually working less. Alas, such is the world of grown-ups - stress, anxiety, depression. And to think that I wasted much of my childhood wishing I could be in charge of my own life. Why in the heck did I ever think that was a good idea? Give me a few cookies, a blankey and a nice place to lie down and I swear I'll never complain about an early bedtime again. These are tough times indeed. Even if you're still OK, you'd have to be one cold, hard, rich person to stay immune to all the angst in the air. So how do you cope? How do you get through today when you're so worried about tomorrow that you can't see straight? I overheard a news commentator say that people are thinking twice before they go out to eat or buy new clothes. I'm guessing that those are the people who still have jobs. Because the people without jobs aren't spending a nickel on anything except cheap carbs and keeping a roof over their heads. Yet as depressing as our collective and individual situations may be, the last thing we need to do is let our fear get the best of us. If you spend all day quaking and anxious, guess who wins? The fear. Yes, I know FDR had a roof over his head when he said "we have nothing to fear but fear itself," but he was right. Every moment you waste paralyzed with fear is a moment you could be doing something, or resting up so that you can do something tomorrow. It's been said that there are only two emotions, love and fear, and all the other emotions are derivatives of those. So I'd like to make a suggestion. Let's chose love. Let's decide to love each other and to love ourselves, no matter what happens. And if you're really a Pollyanna, perhaps you'll join me in deciding to love the fact that this crisis is serving as a call for us to become our better selves; a call for us to look within and rid ourselves of consumerism, greed and the need to keep up with the Jones; and a call for us to have more empathy for those who are struggling. Maybe this is a chance for all of us - and I include myself - to decide that we love our country and we love our fellow human beings more than we love our stuff. Yeah, I know it sounds hokey. But you don't change your circumstances until you change the thoughts that created them. Cowering under the covers in fear may feel safer. But in a crisis, the truly powerful response is love. (c) Copyright 2008, by Lisa Earle McLeod. All rights reserved. Lisa Earle McLeod is a keynote speaker, author and nationally syndicated columnist. Her books include "Forget Perfect" and "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear." Contact her at www.ForgetPerfect.com.
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