I want you to have a pleasurable career. I want you to get up every day and enjoy your work, feel like you’re toiling away like a little elf, and then go home and relax.
I don’t want you to be yelled at by clients, be low-balled by your bosses, or feel stressed about an inbox with thousands of emails. I don’t want that horrible stress for you.
BUUUUUT I also want to say: stress is not why you’re unhappy at your job.
I repeat, stress is not why you’re unhappy at your job.
*Gasp* But isn’t stress the root of all evil? Aren’t you supposed to de-stress by doing 100 meditations throughout the day and smell lavender so that you don’t flip out on your asshole colleague in the breakroom?
When we make it our goal to have a “stress-free and enjoyable workday”, we’re missing out on a big piece of what makes humans tick:
When your life is “smooth” and “enjoyable” but lacks purpose, ennui sets in.
I always think of it this way – if I was relaxing under a million soft blankets, watching all the TV I wanted, with lots of money and no job in sight – at some point I’d get bored and want to do something. (It might take a few weeks, but still.)
All the comfort in the world does not happiness make. That’s why trust-fund kids are always creating companies and philanthropy projects even though they don’t have to.
If you tackle your work problems simply by minimizing stress, you might be more comfortable, but you won’t be happy.
Instead, consider these two types of stress:
If you are dealing with assholes and tight deadlines all day on a project that doesn’t feel aligned with your life purpose, that is sad stress. It’s stress that is compounded by the fact that you technically have no reason to be in this stressful situation, except you need to pay your bills.
If you are working toward a purposeful career (even if your career goal is 5-10-20 years away), stress is recontextualized as a purposeful obstacle to go through, like you’re on a cool obstacle course. This is beneficial stress.
It is true that people take on waaay more stress than they need to. It’s true that self-care and boundaries in the workplace are essential.
But please don’t neglect your life purpose. Please don’t settle for a career that is “not stressful” and that’s about it.
Knowing the answers to these questions will make every workday more fulfilling, no essential oils or chanting required.