“I don’t want to wake up,” I remember thinking to myself.

I had no idea what went wrong. All I knew was that getting out of bed would only make things worse.

But I had no choice, I had to go to work.

I was doing an internship at Sun Microsystems at a time. I was getting paid quite well and looking forward to a “bright future.”

It fit perfectly into my plans. I was going to become a manager at a software company! And what’s better for that than a reference letter from a reputable company?

Everything was going according to plan. There was only one little problem: I hated my life.

By that I mean that I started to hate just about everything about my life. It all started out with having to wake up too early, followed by an hour and half commute. Then I would have to walk the dirty streets of downtown to my office.

I still remember how I hated opening the heavy office door. This is where the real nightmare would begin: Eight long hours of boredom.

By the time I would finally return home, I was tired, exhausted, and frustrated. I tried to pick up hobbies, but didn’t have enough energy for them.

Three months into my internship and I was gasping for air. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that soon all this will end and I will be back to school.

By the time that dreadful internship was finally over, my entire world view has been transformed.

I couldn’t care less how much money I made. I didn’t care about the prestige of my workplace or job title any longer. I simply wanted to like what I do – that’s all.

The realization that I hated working as a programmer was quite scary, because I was studying computer science at the time, and, ironically, enjoying school. After much soul searching, I decided to try my hands at research.

It was a steep hill to climb. I had no idea if I had what it takes to do research. But I was determined to learn.

I poured my soul into it, and by the time I entered my PhD studies, I was making more money in scholarships than most of my friends who worked in industry. But what’s more important, I would wake up every morning with a song in my heart. I was happy to be alive.

Several years later, I found that I part of me was still unsatisfied. The artist side of me wanted more. So I took another leap of faith. I opened up my dusty drawer of dreams, and decided to give my heart a chance: I signed up for singing lessons, and started to write.

By now, I was able to turn passion into money more than ones. But what really matters is the powerful joy that I get from doing what I love each and every day. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

It’s Not Just My Story

I wish that I could say that this was only me, that I am the only person who worked at a job that drained my soul. I wish that I were the only person who had to wake up each and every morning, wishing for nothing more than to stay in bed for the rest of the day.

How I wish that no else would ever have to endure the pain and confusion that comes from not knowing what to do with your life…

Unfortunately, this isn’t so. Not liking our jobs is not only common, it is the norm. Did you know that 80% of us dislike our jobs?

If you are part of the 80%, I want to show you that there is a way out. You don’t have to live like this.

Through my experiences, as well as those of others, I discovered the underlying reasons that many of us dislike what we do, and what we can do about it. I’d like to share some of these reasons with you to help you on your journey.

1. We devalue our own desires

Our society systematically devalues our wants and desires. Someone who greatly values their own desires is considered selfish and irresponsible. We are taught to put what we want on the back-burner, and ultimately, just forget about it all together.

Eventually, this becomes a habit, until we forget what it is that we wanted in the first place. We are so disconnected from our desires that we come to accept that we don’t enjoy our work and become complacent.

But enough is enough. It is your life, and your time is precious. Allow your wants and desires to resurface, and give them the attention that they deserve. It is time to put yourself first.

The first step to finding fulfilling work is reconnecting with your own desires. They will be the guide on your journey.

2. We believe in “talent”

Once we reconnect with our desires, we often realize that we’ve got a lot to learn before we can make a living from our passion. This is where most people stop.

Do I have what it takes? They wonder. The problem isn’t with the wondering, the problem is with the answer we often give ourselves. “I’m just not that talented at __”
we might think to ourselves.

Let’s get one thing straight: There is no such thing as talent. Anyone who was ever really good at anything spent an inordinate amount of time learning and practicing.

No one is born a talented actor, singer, ballet dancer, programmer, manager, etc… But those who have the passion in their hearts find the time to become good at it.

So forget about talent – it does not exist! Instead, start learning, until you become an expert at what you love. And then, everyone will exclaim: “What talent!”

3. We’re afraid of change

Even when we realize what we need to do to make our dreams a reality, underlying much of our inaction is a potent fear of change. We are afraid to rock the boat. We are scared, that somehow, if we make the smallest step towards our dreams, it would shake the underlying core of our lives, and everything will fall apart.

But what we need to realize is that change is natural and is essential for our growth and development. Nothing ever stays the same anyway. But by taking charge of your life, you control the direction of the change!

I suggest that you start small. Take a tiny step towards making your dreams come true today. Bit by bit, you can make a real difference in your life.

***

The journey to find meaningful and fulfilling work can be scary – believe me, I know. But it is also wonderful, exhilarating, and ultimately, incredibly rewarding. Keep at it, and you will succeed.

I wish you all the very best on your journey.

Photo by eizus

Margareta Ackerman

Margareta Ackerman, PhD. is a granddaughter of Holocaust survivor Srulik Ackerman and author of Running from Giants: The Holocaust Through the Eyes of a Child. She also authored over a dozen academic publications, including research on applications of traditional Jewish study methodology to the modern classroom. In addition to her academic career, Margareta is also a semi-professional singer. Born in Belarus, Margareta spent much of her childhood in Israel. She lives with her husband and son in San Jose, California.

Latest posts by Margareta Ackerman (see all)