On Dream Jobs And Reality

WordPress provides bloggers a “daily prompt” in order to get people thinking about specific topics, or to provoke creative blog posts. Recently, the prompt was to describe your dream job. And it got me thinking about how we define dream jobs, and how we find dream jobs. In short, I am not sure we are doing it right.

Lots of people would say their dream job would be to “travel” or “be a professional athlete” or “an artist.” Basically, their dream job is when they get paid for performing their favorite activities or hobbies. Five years ago, I’m sure my “dream job” would have been to run, or be a personal trainer. Because I love to run and train in my free time. But when your favorite activities become a job, everything changes.

With a job comes responsibilities, pressure, deadlines, a paycheck, taxes, coworkers. You could argue that turning your favorite hobby into a job has the distinct potential to ruin it. Maybe we continue to love our extracurriculars because they aren’t our jobs?

I’ve been very open about the fact that, in law school, I was fairly determined to become a prosecutor. Looking back now, it would not have been an appropriate fit. At the time, though, that was hard to accept. But I had to move on and find a place for myself. Thank God I did. I landed in a job that, although I didn’t know it would be at the time, is most definitely my dream job.

Because more than simply doing something you enjoy, happiness comes about when people feel they have a greater purpose. Helping others, usually. If running was my job, I’m not certain I’d feel that sense of purpose. Running brings me a lot of wonderful things: a sense of accomplishment, stress relief, fitness, fun, a continued drive to achieve goals. But my actual job brings me so much more. Intellectual and professional challenges, enduring and deep relationships with incredible colleagues, a very deep sense of purpose and the feeling that I’m giving something back to the world, leaving a mark.

This is not to say artists and professional athletes don’t have this sense of purpose. In fact, I think most of them truly do; more than other people. Olympians are certainly leaving their mark. My point is that we are often encouraged to define our dream job by what we love to do and not by what we want to leave behind.

Sometimes, our hobbies and activities don’t actually have what it takes to be a dream job. So instead of thinking about those things you love to do, ask yourself “what am I here to do?” If it’s to coach high school tennis, or teach English to disadvantaged children, or to paint landscapes on every continent…the only thing that matters, at the end of it all, is if you feel like you’ve left something behind and accomplished a little bit of your purpose.

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