Fifty years before Steve Jobs urged college graduates to search for their true passion ceaselessly, the great Trappist monk Thomas Merton observed, “The world is full of unsuccessful businessmen who still secretly believe they were meant to be artists or writers or actors in the movies.”
Not only that, but we’ve also been told, if we’re not changing the world in dramatic ways, it’s because we’re too afraid to find our passion and follow it.
But if you look closely, career decisions are never supposed to be decisions about ‘what do I love most?
Career decisions are primarily about what kind of life do I want to set up for myself.
Our broad expectations from life should shape the contours of the job we wish to take. Unfortunately, we end up allowing the job to design our life, instead of the other way around.
This article is not an attempt to revisit those differences of opinion. Here the effort is more towards exploring the possibilities when we do happen to find the work we love.
Let’s say you have finally managed to gather every ounce of your courage duly amplified by a sufficient amount of savings. You are ready to take a deep dive into your entrepreneurial stream. But as you start navigating through the upstream, you soon realize that working within a whole gamut of resource constraints is quite a difficult skill to master.
As a result, there is every likelihood that you might end up doing all those ancillary works related to your dream business which may not be up to your liking; still, you are left with no choice but to persist with them.
The actual freedom you might have anticipated pursuing your entrepreneurial adventure might eventually prove to be nothing but an illusion.
Even in cases where you decide to become a successful author, artist, or an actor, the path to success may not be as smooth as you might have anticipated.
In reality, creative people working in these fields do end up dreading all the deadlines and expectations imposed by a flourishing career. All original works, if circumscribed within the four walls of routine and repetition end up looking less glamorous in close-up than it did in long-shot.
Myexperience while pursuing the goal of establishing myself as a writer, speaker, and coach has helped me in acknowledging this bitter truth. All the three roles gave me a broad canvas to do the kind of work that didn’t seem like work to me.
When I was preoccupied playing any of my cherished roles, I used to be so lost; I could quickly lose track of my time. It was not uncommon for me to overshoot the schedule. I found it very difficult to stop myself when I was in some flow. I would credit my wife and daughter to bring this aspect into my notice.
But it took me a while to understand and appreciate that getting lost in my work can look very selfish, especially from the perspective of those who are equally invested not only in your success but also in your overall well being.
Ask your grandmother if she thinks it’s cool being preoccupied only doing work that you love the most. Since mine is no longer available in her physical form, I had to ask my friend’s grandmas to enlighten me on this.
Without exception, they all seem to be unanimous in pronouncing this thought as one of the most selfish ways to lead the life.
Had there been an iota of truth in the proposition, they would have never managed to devote themselves to their family. For them, raising a family through love and sacrifices was far more fulfilling than losing oneself in the work one may be passionate about (and in all likelihood may find boring in the long run).
Ifwhat you desire is liberation not only from being seen as a total jerk but also the presence of sanity and balance in your daily work-life, you can help your cause by bringing more awareness in all the things that you might prefer to pursue.
Till the time you are passionate and not disillusioned about your work, you can counter the imbalance in your life by following these steps.
#1. Stick to the schedule
There is a common but misplaced perception that any work requiring creativity can’t be circumscribed within the boundary of a schedule. But once you develop an understanding of how to get yourself into the stream of flow —by decoding the actual process involved. Getting out of the stream will then require you to utilize the process for your own advantage. Once you learn this technique, developing a habit of sticking to your schedule will come naturally without any fear of losing the flow.
#2. Develop the skill of winding up
Having a vague sense of time while engrossed in your favorite work goes a long way in helping you in pacing everything. At times, I have found it very difficult to windup despite knowing that I am on my way to overshoot my slotted time. One of the practical ways to counter this is by having an alarm with snooze. It has served me well, so far.
#3. Remind yourself that everything can wait till tomorrow
At times, we often forget that work can wait until tomorrow. Don’t take this as an indication of your lack of commitment to work. Please don’t give anyone, not even you, the liberty to make you feel guilty about your decision to call it a day.
#4. Daily time with your family is something non-negotiable
Once you learn to put a full stop to any of your daily chosen work at will, without being carried away too much by the guilt of in-completion; you will naturally build up the courage to defend your family time as non-negotiable.
#5. Resist the temptation of identifying too much with your work
Since we cannot rely on others to give us constant validation that we often crave for, we end up creating a self-image that comforts and makes us feel validated from within. And if the self-image is too much dependent on how we identify ourselves with work, we end up making it an instrument of attention and validation — definitely not a desirable thing to do. Therefore, we should resist the temptation of identifying too much with our work.
One of my wife’s strengths as a homemaker & tutor to my six-year-old kid is her willingness to keep looking for options, even when she might be staring straight into a brick wall. When it comes to making me realize my fault during my pursuit of passion work, she was the one who guided me to come up with workable solutions to counter this imbalance. There was an urgency to redress this issue.
So the credit for prodding me to come up with this five-step guide goes entirely to her. I hope you too can benefit from these steps and avoid falling into the trap of working tirelessly for things that you love.
Originally published on Medium.