“So, insert stranger’s name here, what do you do?”
It’s probably the world’s most frequently asked question. It tells us a lot about a person and it’s generally easy for them to talk about in an otherwise awkward social situation.
However, it doesn’t tell me what I really want to know. So I always ask a follow up question after someone tells me what they do.
“Do you love it?”
It seems like a simple, rather innocuous question that people would tend to answer in a socially-polite way by saying, “Definitely,” before changing the subject. Much like people do when you ask them how they’re doing.
“Fine, just fine. Did you see the game last night?”
But that’s not usually what happens. Instead, I feel like Oprah probably felt. People open up. And while it doesn’t usually involve tears and me giving away free cars to the studio audience, I get to learn a lot about what makes people tick.
And I’ll tell you what I’ve observed: the majority of people I meet are not doing something that excites them. In fact, 55% of people say they are not satisfied with their jobs and, in my opinion, “satisfaction” is a pretty low standard to aim for.
Dad: “So, Johnny, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Yep. It’s a bad goal.
So, given those stats, chances are good that most of you reading this don’t really love your job.
Consequently, you are not performing your best. You may be slogging through a career or a job you hate and yet you’ve convinced yourself that this is normal and to be expected.
“It’s called ‘work’ after all.”
You have bought into the myth that work is supposed to suck. So you show up, punch in, do the work, then clock out. The next day, you simply rinse and repeat all the while longing for a weekend that somehow feels shorter and shorter.
Why? I’ll tell you what I think one of the biggest culprits is:
Most people are living someone else’s dream and it has slowly extinguished their passion. Maybe you are one of those people. I know I was.
The “Family” Business
Too often we do what our parents or our families or our teachers want us to do (or what we think they want us to do) and we live someone else’s dream for our lives. Well intentioned parents who usually want the best for their children sometimes impose their dreams for their kids onto them and, in the process, cause difficult pain for their kids who feel like they are living some else’s life and not their own.
At other times, kids will do things they think will win the approval of their parents by sacrificing what they want for what they think their parents want for them. I’ve met too many people who are doing what their parents wanted them to do simply because they wanted to win the approval of their parents.
I believe many adults have no clue what they want to do because they have been told to get a “real” job, settle down, and do things that they don’t feel inspired by. They are denying the person that God created them to be and are consequently feeling turmoil, frustration, humiliation and pain.
So how do you know if you’ve been living someone else’s dream? I’m going to share with you the 7 common warning signs that I’ve observed in the people I’ve worked with.
7 Signs Your Dreams May Not Be Your Own
- Fear of Letting Others Down. You’re afraid of letting someone other than yourself down if you change direction. A parent, a teacher, a mentor, a grandparent – it could be anybody. This should be nobody else’s to determine other than yours. But instead, you’re worried how someone is going to respond and what they’re going to think of you. (Obviously spouses have a say in this but that’s a whole different post.)
- You Dread Going to Work. Every day you spend in the office feels like pure misery. You live for the weekends and every Sunday night is filled with dread as you countdown the hours until it starts all over. Be careful with this one though. It could just be a bad job or lousy company within an industry or career choice you otherwise love. I have met a lot of people who simply changed jobs and are thriving. If this is the only sign on the list that fits you, try changing jobs first.I’ve had so many jobs I dreaded that the stress of them actually caused me to have serious physical problems by the time I turned 30. This included two different auto-immune diseases, weight gain, high cholesterol and other stress-related problems. Life is too short to do work you hate.
- You Are in the Family Business. I’m going to catch a lot of flack for this one. Sorry. I think family businesses can be a great thing. However, most of the people I’ve met who go into the family business do so out of obligation or expectation. If you are a multi-generational pastor/doctor/lawyer/contractor/etc. you have to do a gut-check on this one. Did you really want that as a career or did you fear letting someone down? Now, before you all hate on me, I don’t have anything against family businesses or people who go into a family business. But you have to understand when it’s something you want or if it’s something you did because of family pressure.
- You Chose a Career for the Money. Maybe you saw someone who was successful at something (usually financially) and you decided that you wanted to do the same thing. However, it wasn’t because you would love the work, but because you wanted that person’s lifestyle! You’re trying to live their dream and it doesn’t fit.
- You Change Jobs – A Lot. I frequently changed jobs because I was terribly unhappy with my career. I made great money but I chose it for the money (see the previous point). When you’re in the career you want or are called to be in, job changes will usually be reduced. Not that you won’t – just that you will find your stride and learn to find the right company (or create your own) that will marry your skills, passions and talents.
- You Feel Like You’re in the Right Career Niche, but Things Seem Sluggish or Stalled. This may be a sign that you are doing things in the way that your parents or some other influential person did them. My dad had a very successful service-based business. As a result, I gravitated toward service-based businesses in my early career.I tried for years to get a service-based business up and running. But every time I started down that road, I felt something inside of my screaming, “Don’t do it!”I had helped a lot of people launch service businesses and I realized that while I could do it for others, something inside me prevented me from doing it for myself. There was a mental block there. Why? Because I’m not supposed to have a service-based business. It’s the wrong model for what I want out my business and my life.I knew what I wanted to do but was putting the wrong framework to it because I felt like it would help me win my dad’s approval. It wasn’t his fault. I grew up wanting to be my dad and starting a service-based business seemed like a great way to make him proud and bond with him.
- You Feel Empty Inside or Passionless About What You Do. You’re going through the motions and I guarantee that people can sense that in you. Those who are driving toward their dreams come alive – there is something different about them that is inspiring, energizing and intoxicating. We want to be around them. Things seem to happen. They aren’t usually empty or dead inside.
So the question is, are you living your dream or someone else’s?
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman