Starting at a very young age, we are asked “what we’d like to be when we grow up.” The importance of one’s career is instilled early on. This is carried into adolescence when we’re choosing extracurriculars, into our college years when we’re choosing a major, and into early adulthood, when we begin to formulate the idea of our dream job. We set ourselves on the path of hoping for success early on, and scratch, climb, and sacrifice to get there—blinded by the idea that when we finally do reach our destination, everything will be perfect.
That’s the problem: There is no destination, per-se. Creating reality in tandem with your dreams does not result in a singular job, or a finite destination—it is instead the process of interweaving what makes you happy with your everyday commitments. Your dream life is the one you make for yourself as you go along.
Finding the Small Good
The idea of work-life balance gets tossed around quite a bit in our modern world, but finding balance in life doesn’t necessarily mean splitting the hours in your day between work and home. True balance comes from the ability to transform any situation into one that is satisfying. People who would largely consider themselves happy are united by a common thread—they have learned how to appreciate the journey, rather than the destination. In doing so, they manage to find a little piece of good in the everyday. They self-regulate, finding balance by integrating what they love into their daily routine. They are able to blend responsibility, creativity, and social interaction to manifest a healthy work-life environment.
We don’t all have the luxury of a highly flexible schedule that allows us to pursue other options—sometimes we have to make the best of what we have. By identifying what we love and finding a way to integrate that into our lives, we can create our own path that blurs the lines between work and pleasure for the better.
Blurring the Lines for Balance
OK—but what does that really mean? How can we create our own prescription for balance by integrating that which we are obligated to do, and that which we love? Begin by making a list of the things that interest you most. Then, next to it, brainstorm an activity that satisfies that interest. It may look something like this:
- Interest: Spending time with other people, socializing
Activity: Volunteering with an organization dedicated to social justice. Set up an office team-building club at work.
- Interest: Being outside
Activity: Start a lunchtime walking group. Volunteer to clean-up a local park or beach.
- Interest: Cooking
Activity: Start a potluck group at work—set aside an hour for a couple of days during the week and picnic together in nice weather.
These are three simple examples of how you can take control of your own activities to find happiness. By taking the time to mindfully hone in on what we want, and by getting creative with ways to satisfy those desires, we begin to sculpt the life we’ve always wanted—dream job or not.
Flexibility with Dreams
Just as the idea of a “destination” continues to develop as we go through our lives, so too will our ideas of what makes us happy. Change, point-blank, is part of the human experience. Our needs evolve as we grow. In our early twenties, for example, social gatherings might be what we need to feel complete. Going out, meeting friends, and forging connections are what make us happy. In our thirties, perhaps starting a family or focusing on a career will bring contentment. In our forties, we may desire social interactions yet again, and making new friends is what brings us happiness.
Life is constantly in flux. By understanding these subtle shifts and accepting that we will all age, we can prepare ourselves to enjoy the journey as we go.