I have been writing a lot recently on work, careers, and happiness, and I feel like I may have come off with sort of this noble attitude that people should not be working for money and that if you are working for money, you’re an awful person. I apologize if it came off that way, and that could not be further from the truth.
All of these ideas revolving around work, income, and happiness are concepts I constantly struggle with, and it’s hard to come up with an overall generalization that works. I do think that being able to support yourself financially is important – in fact, it is necessary to survive. At the same time, I believe that if you want to live a long and happy life, you need to be doing things in your life that make you happy – and really, there’s nothing greater than being able to do work that you love and get paid for it.
On the other hand, maybe the type of work you love doing does not support as well as you’d like financially, so you don’t do it – that’s a legitimate concern. If a physician was paid minimum wage, would I do it? The quick answer would probably be no (assuming I had no other source of income). And it’s not because I love money, but it’s because I would love my family more (if any career of mine was bad for my family, I would quit in a second) and would want to support them in ways where getting paid minimum wage for the type of work and hours a physician does would not be enough. It would also hinder other aspects and interests in my life because I would have to constantly worry about my financial situation, paying all of my bills, etc. The thought of being able to deal with the stress of both say a career in neurosurgery at work, and then the financial stress while home is pretty scary.
So it is absolutely a more complex situation than maybe I had written about earlier, and I can understand many reasons why people may do the work that they do. On the other hand, some of you are in a situation where you have opportunity to choose among many possible types of work to pursue and finances may not be as much of an issue – and you are really fortunate to be in this situation, and should really take advantage of it.
Assuming you are in such a situation, here’s one exercise that may help you figure out what you really enjoy doing, and what type of pursuits would make you happy.
Imagine you had an unlimited amount of money right now. What would you be doing?
Would you still be going to school?
Would you be traveling the world?
Picking up a new hobby?
Working with a certain charity?
Running for government?
Producing your own music?
Playing computer games competitively?
There are no wrong or right answers, but it’s definitely something interesting to think about.
If the type of career you are working towards is not one of your answers to this hypothetical situation, maybe you should rethink the career path you’ve put yourself on – not saying your current path is wrong, but it’s definitely something interesting and worth thinking more about.