At 42, my friend Sarah is not rich, but she does earn a very good salary as a human resources manager for a residential care corporation. Her closet is full of new clothes, she owns a nice house, she drives a new car and she can afford a two week vacation.
By all accounts, Sarah should be happy, right? Wrong.
Sarah’s job is one of those high stress, everything-needs-to-be-done yesterday type of jobs. Like a lot of people, Sarah longs for the weekend and her two week vacation every year.
Remember the days when giving your employer a highly productive eight or nine hours a day meant that you were a dedicated employee? Sarah often gives up her lunch hour, comes in on Saturday’s, and answers her cell phone and email after hours. She is expected to arrive at work before 8 a.m. and often leaves well after her family should be having dinner together. Sarah often feels compelled to apologize for leaving work before 6 p.m. She is just trying to meet the minimum expectations of her employer.
To say that Sarah in unhappy would be an understatement.
Oh, but did I mention that she makes a great salary?
“Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.” – Buddha
No one sets out to be miserable and well off. Quite the contrary. TV commercials and magazine ads would have us believe that money, and all the goods and services it can buy, is precisely what it takes to achieve the elusive state of ‘happiness’.
So earn and spend is what we do. But are we really any happier?
ManpowerGroup recently released a new snapshot survey that underlines the dissatisfaction among American workers. At a time of high unemployment, lackluster job growth and major uncertainty in world financial markets, many employees feel stuck and unhappy in their jobs.
ManpowerGroup ran the survey between April 16 and May 15 of 2012 and collected responses from workers in the U.S. and Canada. Only 19% said they were satisfied with their jobs. Another 16% said they were “somewhat satisfied.” But the rest, nearly two-thirds of respondents, said they were not happy at work. Twenty-one percent said they were “somewhat unsatisfied” and 44% said they were “unsatisfied.”
What about you? Does your income exceed you level of bliss? If so, you may be suffering from a case of “Affluenza”. Producers of the PBS program by the same name, describe the disease as:
- The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Jones.
- An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream.
As I hear Sarah speak of her current situation, I can’t help but wonder how it affects her health, her relationships and her resolve to offer her best to the world. I have spoken to Sarah many times about her current situation and how she is going to change it. She is hopeful but she has to come up with a strategy to overcome the following:
- She dreads her 10 – 12 hour work days and longs for a change
- She often feels that there is no way out and this is just how it is
- She occasionally numbs herself with TV, food, alcohol, the internet or some combination of them all
- She’s willing to work hard but she’s desperate to do something more meaningful
- She’s already so busy and overwhelmed with work and family obligations that it’s hard for her to see other options
- She’s scared to give up her salary, benefits and ‘job security’ for something unknown
- She has forgotten what she’s really capable of and what she is meant to be doing
- She has lost touch with what her unique genius is and how much its really worth to the marketplace
Despite all of these obstacles, Sarah has set aside time during the week to experiment with creating income from a skill that she absolutely loves. And you know what? She is now getting paid to teach people music and she is more excited than ever!
Your One Wild and Precious Life
I recently came across this quote in a line from the poem The Summer Day by Mary Oliver. The poem closes with this line:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Many of the people that I know are increasingly realizing that this is their one life and every day is an opportunity to really live it or to just get by.
What does this mean to you?
What do you really want to be doing with your life?
I believe that these are two of the most important questions we can be asking ourselves.
Here are some examples of family, friends and acquaintances that are either moving in the direction of their desired lifestyle or they are already living it:
My wife, Jill Knouse, walked away from her high paying, high stress job in financial services to pursue her love of yoga. She started down this path eight years ago and she is now one of the most sought after yoga teachers in Portland, Oregon. She has also created her own unique yoga business that leverages her core strengths and talents to teach new yoga teachers how to sharpen their skills and become amazing yoga instructors.
My friends Dakota and Chelsea are making preparations to travel the Western U.S. in a converted Sprinter van. They will experience the West in a way that few people ever will. They will be visiting some of the most scenic natural environments in the world and exploring them on their terms. Something that could never be done with two weeks of vacation!
My friends Rob and Heidi are pursuing their love of fitness and extreme sports by training for and participating in one of the most grueling physical endeavors imaginable. They will take part in the Lake Tahoe Ironman Triathlon later this year. For those that don’t know, this is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a 26.2 mile run. Talk about setting big goals!
Other friends are planning a sabbatical to spend six months visiting their favorite countries abroad. They realize that their life is happening right now and they want to experience it in a way that will allow them to follow their inspiration now rather than waiting. My guess is that this experience will open up new doors that they never would have imagined.
A guy that I am just getting to know has taken his passion and knowledge of physical fitness, weight training and yoga to become a fitness blogger, certified personal trainer, and yoga teacher in Portland, Oregon. Johnny Nasello found himself in his first post-college desk job and started noticing some changes in himself that he was not particularly proud of. For the first time in his life, he started to develop body fat around his mid-section and he decided that it was time that he did something about it. He didn’t know it at the time but that decision changed his life and he left his corporate job to start JohnnyFit.com.
Pat Flynn used to have a 9 to 5 job, which he really did enjoy. He was working at an architecture firm and loving the line of work he was in. He had no plans to leave, but unfortunately he was laid off. It turns out that getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to him. He started the Smart Passive Income Blog and used his real life experiences to show people how they can make a great living online. Pat has been publicly tracking his income from his online business and last month he created $51,475.50.
The Choice is Yours
As you can see from the examples above, making a living is starting to take a backseat to having a life. I’m not saying that you need to quit your job to pursue something else. Far from it. I’m encouraging you to think about prioritizing your life in a way that allows you to live it to the fullest. For some, this will mean taking a sabbatical to pursue travel and adventure while they are young. For others it may mean leaving a corporate job to discover what you knew you should have been doing all along.
Is the thought of making a big change scary? You bet. But facing your fears is always more exciting than remaining in a miserable state of predictability.
My goal from the start of this blog has been to encourage you to wake up inspired and fall asleep fulfilled because you’re fearlessly giving your gifts to the world.
One final thing…..take five minutes and watch this video of two people that may be much like yourself. They took a journey. And it changed them. Forever!
And I ask you the same questions that the man in this video asks:
Is it possible to be happy with this life?
Did you enjoy your story?
Thanks for the article Michael. Let me take a shot at your two questions…
Is it possible to be happy with this life?
This is a question that has all kinds of conditions attached to it. Luck and things that are out of our control can have huge implications. Some things that come to mind include being on the receiving end of love, having nurturing relationships, and access to food and necessities.
Then, it’s a matter of finding balance among the conflict of who you want to be, and who you currently are. What many of us discover through yoga.
We can be happy with this life, but we have to ask ourselves additional questions to come to this conclusion. Do the people that you surround yourself with contribute to your happiness? Are you engaged and interested in your daily pursuits? It all comes down to who you spend your time with and how you spend your time.
Did you enjoy your story?
It’s turning out to be a rather long story, but the current chapter is excellent!
I appreciate your thoughtful response to my questions. It’s true that many things are out of our immediate control and can affect us in ways that shape our journey through this life. I find that it is often our response to life events that determine our final outcome and our state of happiness.
Life can be a roller-coaster ride with many highs and lows and yoga/running has been one of the most important things to help me find balance and discover harmony in my life.
I love that you are digging deeper with new questions about who we spend our time with and how we spend our days. This is absolutely the foundation to creating an amazing life!
Your story is an inspirational one and I am so excited to see how it continues to unfold.
Thanks for sharing!