Work for yourself

Rarely does a day go by that people don’t talk to me about their jobs. Whether they’re self-employed or work for somebody else, I always say that the best motivation is to work for your own happiness and fulfillment. It might not be easy, and it might not happen all at once, but no matter what you do, the activity should, first and foremost, be productive for YOU. In other words, your life is better off for having done the work. Your motivation can range from doing what you like for a modest hourly wage all the way to a lucrative and fulfilling career. No matter who signs your paycheck, you should always be working in your own best interest.

In that sense, all employment is self-employment. Though it might take a while to find the right job for you, the key to avoiding resentment about your work is to ultimately take command of your life and make your job a means to an end: The ‘end’ being something that makes you happy. If you feel like you’re going nowhere working for ‘Mr. Dithers,’ as poor Dagwood did in the comic strip ‘Blondie,’ you can make it a stepping-stone to something better.

Sometimes it can take a while to find a job that’s rewarding. You want (and probably need) the paycheck, and the work may be tolerable, but that’s about it. If that sounds familiar to you, now’s the time to start planning and building something more rewarding. Just as people sometimes take a second job for extra money, your ‘second job’ can start as a sideline that has the potential to be more fulfilling. And if it earns money, all the better! It could even lead to a career change where you can finally earn your primary income doing something that you love.

Unfortunately, people often find the part about ‘change’ the most difficult to face. People who resist change suffer the most in their occupations. Even if you’re a professional such as a lawyer or a doctor, and no matter how much time and money you put into training, if you hate your profession then you owe it to yourself to start putting together an exit strategy. Life’s too short to spend it unhappy, and nothing can justify staying in a career that makes you miserable. If you don’t at least try to develop an alternative plan, then you’re sentencing yourself to prison. And the unhappiness you feel every day will be nobody’s fault but your own.

Change, by itself, is neither good nor bad; it all depends on the circumstances. If you avoid the prospect of change merely because it is change, then you’re denying yourself the opportunity for growth and improvement. Like it or not, life is not static. Change — both physical and emotional — happens every day, with or without your consent. So why not make it work to your advantage?

You might be thinking, ‘Well, that might be good for some people, but I can’t do that. I have to get my paycheck every week no matter what. I don’t have time for anything else. And what about my paid vacation and insurance?’ Or, ‘I went to law school for three years! OK, I hate it, but what about all that time and money I spent?’ These traps are easy to fall into, but you have to stand back and look at the big picture. There’s got to be more to life than those three years in school or the daily trudge to a job that does little but make you miserable.

So, instead of feeling trapped, start planning your exit strategy. Think about the best method for moving yourself out of the status quo and into where you’d really like to be. Demystify it by making the details concrete and real. Be sure to evaluate your emotions along the way; i.e., ‘Let’s say that my plan works and I get the job I want. How do I feel about it?’ If you’ve been realistic with your decisions, then the prospect of making the change will bring you a sense of happy anticipation. If you’re afraid that your plan won’t work, then what’s the worst that can happen? You stay where you are, unless (or until) you think of something better. Change can’t be wrong if it leads to your goal of making your life happier and more productive.

No matter what you do, work for your own benefit. Be at peace with the changes that might be required to make it happen. By adopting a perpetual attitude of ‘self-employment,’ you can learn to embrace and exploit the changes you might otherwise never have made. The old saying, ‘Do what you love, and the money will follow’ makes total sense, because you’re at your happiest when you’re doing what you love. Can there be any better goal than that?