If you had your dream job, would you be happy?

Or, can you learn to love the job you have?

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A career coach sits at her desk, waiting for her client. The laptop in front of her lets out a ping, as her client’s face appears. Scowling, her client lets out a heavy breath.

CLIENT: Sorry I’m late. You wouldn’t believe the day I’ve had.

COACH: No problem. Do you want to tell me about it?

CLIENT: Well, it started with four straight hours of Zoom calls. Kill me. And when I finally did get a break for lunch my boss wouldn’t stop pinging me about this slide deck that my incompetent co-worker screwed up. I ended up spending the whole afternoon fixing it. So, not only did I have to do his job, but I barely got any of my own work done. And today wasn’t even that crazy of a day.

COACH: I see.

CLIENT: So, as you can imagine, I’m starting to look for a new job.

COACH: What kind of job?

CLIENT: A job that lets me control my time. That pays better. Where I’m not surrounded by clueless idiots and sociopaths.

COACH: What kind of job is that?

CLIENT: I don’t know, my college roommate makes like $300k as a freelance app developer.

COACH: Would you be happy doing that?

CLIENT: Happier than I am now.

COACH: What makes you think that?

CLIENT: Well, for starters I’d be making much more money. I could also set my own hours, and I wouldn’t get passed over for promotions for people with half my years of experience.

COACH: How long would that happiness last?

CLIENT: What do you mean?

COACH: What if it’s not your job that’s making you unhappy?

CLIENT: Did you hear what I told you about my schedule? That’s not an anomaly. That’s my routine. If you had my job you’d be miserable too.

COACH: Suppose you got your dream job. Would you be happy then?

CLIENT: Of course.

COACH: What makes you say that?

CLIENT: Because people are happy when they get what they want.

COACH: Didn’t you want your current job at one point?

CLIENT: I guess.

COACH: And now you’re unhappy with it.

CLIENT: So you’re saying it’s my fault– that I’m just an unhappy person?

COACH: No, I’m saying that you’re a person who has chosen to be unhappy about your job.

CLIENT: Why would anyone choose to be unhappy about their job?

COACH: There are lots of reasons.

CLIENT: Okay, but why would I choose to be unhappy about my job?

COACH: Because finding faults with your job gives you an excuse for why you aren’t successful as you believe you should be. Your negative feelings about your job allow you to avoid confronting the parts of yourself that are actually holding you back from getting ahead.

CLIENT: Are you serious?

COACH: I am.

CLIENT: You’re an asshole.

COACH: I’m sorry if I offended you.

...

CLIENT: Let’s say you’re right. What do I do about it?

COACH: Well, to start, you can stop letting the voice in your head run your life.

CLIENT: What voice?

COACH: The one who judges every moment of your existence based on whether it’s conforming with your preferences.

CLIENT: But that voice is me.

COACH: No it’s not. You are the one who’s listening to it.

CLIENT: How do I make it stop?

COACH: You stop paying attention to it.

CLIENT: How?

COACH: By paying attention to what’s happening in front of you. All of those Slack messages, Zoom calls, and Slide Decks. You stop judging these moments and start recognizing them for what they are.

CLIENT: What’s that?

COACH: A gift.

CLIENT: A gift?

COACH: Yes.

CLIENT: So you’re saying that I should just start pretending like all the things that are terrible about my job are actually just good things?

COACH: Pretend? No.

CLIENT: Then what are you talking about?

COACH: The universe is 13.8 billion years old.

CLIENT: So?

COACH: So, this moment that you and I are sharing is 13.8 billion years in the making. For it to arrive in front of us products had to be invented. Great bodies of knowledge had to be discovered. Countless people had to be born, fall in love, and perish. But, rather than being awed by all those things, you’re stuck listening to the voice in your head jabber on about how life isn’t matching your preferences.

CLIENT: How would I even stop doing that?

COACH: For starters, you can stop spending all your energy trying to change the outside world, and commit to changing the way you experience it.

CLIENT: But isn’t it selfish to focus on changing myself when there are so many problems in the world?

COACH: Imagine you had a magic wand that could change the mindset of every human being on this planet. How many of those problems could you solve?

CLIENT: A lot, I suppose.

COACH: Before focusing on the problems others are causing, take the opportunity to reduce the turmoil you are creating in the lives of the people around you.

CLIENT: So, are you saying that instead of striving for a job that makes me happy, I should learn to be happy with what I have?

COACH: I’m saying that the only real way to have a job that makes you happy is to learn to be happy regardless of what job you have.

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Thanks to: Jessica Kasmer-Jacobs, Justin Mares, Lyle McKeany, Matthew Vere, Steven Ovadia, for providing feedback on early drafts.