We are a living in a unique time period where there is the lowest level of unemployment since the 1960s and there are more jobs available than people looking for work. The stock market is up, there are no wars on our land and the average American earns a wage that would place them in the top 1% globally. We hold more information in the palm of our hands with a smartphone than all of the scientists and scholars of previous centuries combined. Our homes have huge widescreen high-definition televisions that offer an unending supply of cheap entertainment options. All of your neighbors have leased shiny brand news cars that contain more technology and safety features than the most expensive Jaguars and Mercedes from 30 years ago. Higher education, while once the exclusive province of the wealthy, has opened up to almost everyone. You can take a trip to WalMart or Target or search Amazon to purchase nice stylish clothes for historically low prices. So, with all of this abundance, why are we still so miserable?
Here is why—and what you should do about it:
1. Many of us hold jobs that are not meaningful, nor do they serve a higher purpose or calling. The source of your unhappiness could stem from the fact that while you may have a good, well-paying and high-status career, you inwardly feel that you’re not making any real important contributions to the world. It’s a job, in which you are a cog in the machine. At the end of the work day, you ask yourself, “What have I really accomplished to make a difference and what should I do next?”
You have a long career ahead you. If you don’t feel fulfilled, there is no reason to stick around. Start searching right now for a job, career or activity that will offer something meaningful. Receiving a nice salary is great, but if you dread going into the office and hate what you do, the money won’t be worth it. Your health will deteriorate, relationships fray and you’ll remain in a constant state of malaise or fall into depression. Take some time to find a job where you can earn a reasonable living and are excited to get up and go to work in the morning because you believe you are making an impact.
2. The blessing of technology often inadvertently turns into a curse. We are connected with work all of the time. There is no respite or escape. On nights and weekends, we feel obligated to constantly check our emails, listen to voicemails and answer texts. The pressure is on us that if we aren’t responsive in a timely manner, the company will find someone else who is. You ask your colleagues, “How do I break this cycle?”
Learn how to disconnect. The world won’t end and your company won’t go out of business if you are late responding to an email. No one is so important that they need to always be connected to their phone. Think of how you are living your life. Are you busy for the sake of being busy or are you being productive? Do you put in crazy hours just to brag to co-workers about how overworked you are? Find a reasonable balance between work and life and your mood will dramatically improve. Put things into perspective: is it more important to kiss up to your boss by running out of your daughter’s dance recital to respond to an inane text or be there with flowers and see her smile when she walks off the stage? Twenty years from now, you will not even remember that text from your boss, but you will still be able to visualize that one moment in time that you made your child feel loved and special.
3. Your job is not safe. Any day that you walk into your office could be your last. Your company could be acquired, ending with you subsequently receiving a pink slip. The business could nearshore or offshore your division to another state or country. Due to political infighting, you could be demoted or pushed out.
While you may feel that you’re compensated reasonably well, when you start doing the math calculations over paying back student loans, making car lease and mortgage payments, saving for retirement, putting money aside for the children’s college fund and giving too much back in taxes, you realize that you’re not moving forward financially. To make matters worse, you can’t see a light at the the end of the tunnel to advance your career. It feels as if you’re on a hamster wheel. There is a deep-seated dread of what will happen to you 10 or 20 years from now. You ask your spouse, “How do I deal with this stress?”
You have to get used to the fact that corporate culture is cold and cruel. You’re loved one day and out the door the next. Sadly, it’s a part of modern life. To empower yourself, don’t take things personally. Use this trend to your advantage. It is also a free-agent economy. Always keep looking for the next best opportunity. Stay active on LinkedIn, network, search job boards, go on informational interviews and meet with top recruiters. If something bad happens, you won’t have to start from scratch. If the company feels free to fire you at will, then you should feel free to pursue the best opportunity for yourself. Take active and assertive control over your career. Don’t let your destiny be ruled by others. If you are smart, hardworking, ambitious and motivated, you will always find a way to succeed.