I think that, through primary school, high school and university we are given this image of our future: you get a job and you work until you retire. This has been instilled in us by the baby boomers. But this idea of the importance of job over life has been steadily shifting over the recent years and it is not a new concept that this shouldn’t be the way we see our lives, There are countless people making a difference in their life and focusing on that rather than just their career and allowing their career to change as their life evolves. But when you are already in deep on the journey of the “full time career” it can be really difficult to suddenly start planning your life SEPERATE to your career, but if you don’t do that then you risk the realisation later on that you are working in a career you like, but you aren’t living a life you want.
My steps are going to help you to change that.
I have been finding out more and more through studying what others are doing with their careers and lives that the career itself really doesn’t matter that much. But if you can achieve career/life integration (not necessarily BALANCE) then this can give your entire life meaning. What I mean is that you can work in retail in a store which is draining, uninspiring and makes you dread getting up each day. You could also work in almost exactly the same store but feel alive, feel inspired and feel like you are doing meaningful work. That is what you should be aiming for. As someone that studied to become a pharmacist for 5 years I know how it feels to have the idea that the career title defines you and, somehow, magically, you are going to love being a pharmacist no matter where you are. But that isn’t true. I could do 100 different jobs which could feel meaningful, or I could do 100 different jobs that absolutely drain my soul. The key is in realising what lifestyle you want and choosing a job or a career around that. It isn’t something we are taught about in school and it isn’t even what most of us think about when we are going for jobs. But the beauty of not being tied down by your job and career, means that they can change as your desire for a different life changes. It is always less about what you do and more about why you do it, and in this case the why is to fuel the lifestyle that you desire.
You might also be interested in reading more about purpose in your career, here.
Download the worksheet, and answer the questions I have proposed as you read through the rest of the article. Be super honest and thoughtful in your answers, no one but you is going to see them!
You might be thinking about starting your own business or company instead of working for someone else’s, and I think that these questions are infinitely useful in that too. I use my answers to these questions to keep me grounded when I am thinking about the direction that Acorns and Lemonade could take – I want the work that I do on a day to day level to always reflect the values I want in my life and give me the opportunities to pursue the lifestyle that I want now, and in the future.
Even if you are not thinking about change yet, this is a great way to see how your career and job may not be aligned with your values so that you can, in tiny increments, start to work towards one that feels both meaningful and free. The job search notes section at the end also means you can keep references of what’s important to you over time, for when that time comes to change.
The most important areas of your lifestyle you need to look at are:
- How you want to live
- Where you want to live
- Who you want to live with
- How you find meaning
If you can answer all these questions, then you will have designed an ideal lifestyle and one which will immediately eliminate many, many jobs. The more that you expand each of these areas, the better the picture and plan you can make.
Knowing this picture, gives you the image of the life that you want which is the most important thing. But depending on the answers to 1 and 4, you are probably going to make some form of income to sustain your lifestyle and give you some meaning in your life. The following questions can help you to use this ideal lifestyle to find a meaningful job which will sustain your life, not control it.
Click here to get your FREE life and job defining worksheet!
What do I need in my life to be flexible?
Whatever it is that is most important to you in terms of flexibility – the hours that you work, the holidays that you take, your location. This is the most important and broadest question. Everyone has something that they really need to be flexible, and most of us don’t get the ability to explore that with the job that we get. By working backwards, you can select the job which will suit you perfectly.
Am I an introvert or an extrovert, and what does that mean for me?
Defining ourselves as an introvert or an extrovert can help greatly in determining the type of life that want to lead because each of these personalities have defined traits that we know are important in gaining energy, alone time for an introvert or socialising for an extrovert, for example. But it is important to define what you find important for your personality and if you clearly fit into either of these categories.
Sometimes, getting uncomfortable in our journey can be an important part of growth and so actively deciding to pursue something that you don’t normally steer towards can be rewarding (so long as the job also gives you the space you need to recharge your energy however you need to).
Where would I, ideally, live in 10 years?
Is the life that you see for yourself even in this country? 10 years is a long way off and really shouldn’t affect any job that you take now, but if you are developing a business on your own then finding something that can accommodate a move in the future is important.
Would having an unsteady paycheck stress me out?
Making a living is an important part of making a life and the income that you want to sustain your lifestyle should be an important factor. With a lot of freelance, or independent work there is the potential to earn big money in a month, there is also the potential to earn nothing. This is also true of shift work and commission work. So if that would stress you out, take a job with regular hours and regular pay so that you can happily plan your life out.
Do I want to own a home, or am I happy renting?
If you want to own a home, then you are going to need a deposit, a steady job, a steady location and the knowledge that you can pay the mortgage each week. This is very different to the potentially carefree lifestyle of a renter – with the ability to relocate, upsize or downsize and spend more of your incoming wage.
Do I have a partner, or is finding a partner important to me?
If you haven’t found a partner but this is important to you, then socialising on weekends may need to be a priority. If you have a partner or family then getting home at a reasonable time, having weekends off and being able to take holidays may be more of a priority.
Are there children in my future?
Again, if this is far into the future it doesn’t matter for taking a job, that can change as you change. But having an idea of the type of lifestyle you may want once you have children can help you to plan. If you want to be a stay at home mother then you may need some form of passive income or a large savings account, or you might want to pay off your house first. Start adding contributions to your super fund now to make up for the years that you don’t work. Children change your lifestyle dramatically so it’s important not to ignore the differences between the immediate future for yourself and the one you want to lead with a family.
What have I enjoyed most about jobs in the past?
There may be something that you know you loved and that is important to keep in mind. There’s no need to start from scratch if you don’t have to, and narrowing down what worked, is just as important as what won’t work for you in your lifestyle.
Do you enjoy helping people directly, or from behind the scenes?
Interacting directly with people, solving their problems and having conversations can either be completely draining or inspiring to you. Deciding which side of the customer service table you work best at can be an easy decision. It can also mean that you can find other work in a company that you like which will be more meaningful to you, just by moving away from or towards the customer base.
Do you want a job that would require you to travel?
Sometimes, travelling through your job can be a wonderful way to see the world and give you an idea of the places you want to visit on your own time. For others, you might want a stable home and uninterrupted year, so a job with travel would quickly become an inconvenience.
Is there something that you are passionate about changing in the world?
This will be completely personal for each and every person and come directly from your highest values. It may be something huge, or something very small but knowing if there is that spark of purpose in your life and waiting to find a job that can grow on that purpose, will help infinitely in finding meaning in your work.
Do I want to be able to walk to work, or is a commute feasible?
Do you own a car, love or hate public transport or just want to be able to make the choice to walk or bike to work? Living close to where you work can help you to reduce your footstep on the planet, rather than sitting in a car in traffic for an hour each day. This will also affect the things that you have to take to your job, if you walk each day then you don’t want to be carrying equipment from your house.
Location, location, location.
You have to think about the location where you want to work and live. Are they going to be the same place? What sort of amenities and shopping and services do you want? If you want a family, what sort of schools and who is around you as support? Where you work is a big part of your life, because you live there too. The location should make you happy, feel secure and feel inspired.
Do I want to live in a city or in rural areas?
Some careers require you to live in a metropolitan area, while others can be found in cities or in rural areas and some, while they are based in metropolitan areas, allow remote work. This comes back to location, again but think about whether, at this point or in the future you might want a sea change, or a tree change, or to get into that bustling city life. Don’t go where the work is, pick the work where you want to be.
Are there any times of year that I really want to have off?
If you want Christmas off, Easter or school holidays then this should really play a big consideration when you pick a job. If you live away from your family, but Christmas is really important to you, don’t pick a job which means you can’t get the Christmas week off. I made this mistake as a pharmacist because Christmas is our busiest time of year, but my husband – a teacher – gets all of Christmas and January off and I wish I had thought about that better in the past.
Don’t go into a job thinking that it will be great and you will be happy to create a life around that career. That is the thinking that our parents and grandparents had no choice but to think because of their more limited options. Instead, think about even the smallest things in your life that matter to you, and the things you think will matter most in the future. Be picky with your job search and always, always make sure you are leading the life you love with the values that you believe, and the job will follow.
All of these answers will give you a picture of the types of values you are looking for in a job. They will indicate the sort of hours you want to work, where you want to work, the sort of work you want to do and the people you want to work with.
Once you can find a few jobs that fit these very limited criteria you are opening yourself up to huge opportunities of happiness. The more specific you are about the type of company you want to work at, the more likely you will be to take on new and different experiences or roles that you might not have previously, understanding that the culture and the work suits your life, and giving yourself opportunities to do meaningful work and gain wonderful experience.
I hope that you enjoy the work that you do, or you have a plan to pursue work that you enjoy but we really must keep in mind that the work is secondary to our lives. Integrate them as best as you can, and you will feel alive every day.
This worksheet will help you to find the job that is right for you, so that you don’t need to sacrifice your lifestyle just to work.
Want to share how your job is making big changes in your life? Share below!