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Yesterday I asked you to list your first job, your current job, and your dream job in which money was no object. Your answers were fascinating. Thank you to all of you who participated.
A lot of you — I counted 16 — listed something like be a writer, write books, become a published author, etc. The reason so many people on the Internet want to be writers is a fascinating one, and may be something we’ll discuss in the future (Jenny had some good thoughts on it yesterday).
But today I want to think about something else: what we dream of becoming. Reading your responses yesterday caused me to engage in some self-reflection. Which is always dangerous. I came up with my personal timeline of my past career goals:
1. In college, as the editor and designer of our school magazine and newspaper, I realized I wanted to be some kind of writer and graphic designer when I grew up. I used to dream about getting an article published in a national magazine.
2. By the time I had graduated from college, I had gotten an article published in a national magazine. (It doesn’t exist any more, but the publication was called Student.) Then I began to dream about writing a novel while working full-time at a church doing writing and design for its ministries.
3. After graduation, I started writing a novel and took a full-time job as communications specialist at a church. I wrote and designed stuff for the church. I dreamed about finishing my novel and getting it published.
4. I finished the novel. (I never got it published, and it exists on paper in my closet.) I still worked at the church, and dreamed about someday breaking into the advertising world as a copywriter and graphic designer.
5. I became a copywriter and graphic designer for a local marketing company. I used to dream of winning awards, designing logos, and directing photo shoots.
6. I won awards, designed logos, and directed photo shoots. Then I dreamed of becoming creative director at the same company, and becoming the guy in charge.
7. I became creative director. I was in charge. I hated it. (Management: not for me.) Then I dreamed of someday writing a book and becoming a published author.
8. I wrote a book and became a published author. Then I dreamed about leaving my creative director job and going back to something simpler and less stressful…something like the work I used to do at the church.
9. I returned to my church job, as Communications Director. Then I began to dream about my writing career really taking off, about writing a series of books, and about getting freelance article assignments from lots of different magazines.
10. My writing career really took off. I wrote a series of books. I got freelance article assignments from lots of different magazines. Then I dreamed about giving up my church job and going out on my own — about becoming a full-time freelance writer and designer, and actually making a living doing it.
11. I gave up my church job and went out on my own. I became a full-time freelance writer and designer, and today I’m actually making a living doing it. Now I dream of having a book really take off in terms of sales and popularity. I dream of writing a novel (again, and getting it published this time). I dream of being asked to do more speaking engagements. I dream of greater impact, a larger voice, and more financial security.
There are two ways to look at the list above.
One is to read it and think “Jason is living the dream!” Because other than getting that first novel published, all the things I have wanted to do I have ended up doing. For what it’s worth, I’m fairly good at setting goals and reaching them.
But this isn’t a personal horn-tooting post. What I want you to see from the list above is that:
a) I have career hopes and dreams
b) I have attained career hopes and dreams; and
c) once I attain them, they end up getting replaced by new hopes and dreams.
There’s always a new goal. A better career. Another dream.
When it comes to my career, I’m always chasing. I’m never arriving.
The dream is never as satisfying as you think it’s going to be. Once you attain it — and if you work hard and catch some luck, you can attain it — it will probably not be the life-changing nirvana you’ve been expecting. When you get there, something else will take its place. You’ll start focusing on the next dream job/life goal/career path. You’ll always discover something better.
The lesson: Your personal fulfillment and satisfaction in life have to come from somewhere other than (or in addition to) your career. Your faith, your family, your purpose…seek fulfillment here first.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from pursuing their dream career. Dream big. Chase it hard. Reach for it, better yourself, and take risks. But realize that, in most cases, when you do achieve your dream, the reality will be less fulfilling than what you expect. There will always be a better position, better work, or someone who’s doing it better than you. There’s always more, and the desire for more is the biggest temptation most of us face. If we always need more, when will we ever be satisfied? Will we ever have enough?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that, at some point, we have to learn to find fulfillment in the most important things — the things unrelated to what we do for a paycheck. These things help us rest, and they balance out our striving in the other things.
Where do you find your enough?