This article was originally published by RELEVANT Magazine.
I have a really cool job. I daily get to practice the skills that I studied for years in school. If you told 16-year-old me what I get to do every day, I think he would have been pretty stoked.
While all of this is true, I rarely smile when my alarm goes off in the morning. I have yet to whistle like Snow White’s dwarfs on my morning commute. There are days when I’m tempted to pull Jim Halpert-esque pranks on certain co-workers and fast-forward the clock to 5.
The idea of a “dream job” come up in conversations fairly often when you’re first starting out in your career. Everyone wants a fun and rewarding career. Gone are the days of being content with a desk job that simply pays the bills; we want to get paid for something that fulfills our souls, brings joy to our lives and adequately funds our weekend adventures.
However, as I get older and gain more work experience, I’m beginning to see that this dream is certainly misleading and most likely impossible. My day job is pretty close to my dream job, but it’s still hard work that isn’t always fun or rewarding. Whether it be through sitcoms, social media or other forms of cultural storytelling, we’ve created a glorious career path that does not actually exist.
If you ask high school or college students what they want to do with their lives, you’re likely to hear things along the lines of “I want to love what I do,” or “I want to wake up excited to go to work every morning,” or “I hope my job is so great that it never feels like a job!”
The way some people talk about their dream jobs, it’s almost as if they expect to get paid to go on vacation and watch Netflix.
We’re told to take a Sabbath and rest, which implies that the other six days will be full of tasks that drain our bodies and minds.
Thousands of years ago after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God warned them that the ground was cursed because of their disobedience. They could no longer expect to stroll around paradise walking with the Creator; now there was going to be “painful toil” as they worked for their food. God would continue to provide, but survival would require “the sweat of their brow” as long as Adam and Eve lived.
Throughout Scripture, we see examples of work being difficult—and even painful. Sometimes God blesses people with positions of influence and affluence, but I can’t find a reference in Scripture that says those things should be our goal. We’re instructed to work hard for what we need. We’re told to take a Sabbath and rest, which implies that the other six days will be full of tasks that drain our bodies and minds.
I recognize that I am lucky—especially in the current economy. Not everyone gets to spend their days doing what they love, and I am grateful for where God has placed me.
But it is work. I still sit in front of a computer for at least eight hours a day in an office without a window. There are days when I am tired and struggle to come up with new ideas. Even the jobs that may appear glamorous on the outside still require work. I may not literally be working in the thorns and thistles like Adam was in Genesis, but I understand what it means to toil.
With all of that in mind, here are a few lessons I think we all can benefit from in the midst of whatever job we’re currently in.
Be Grateful for the Job You Have.
If you have a job, odds are you at least had some input on the field you work in. If nothing else, you at least had control over where you didn’t submit an application. Even if the reasons are very small and difficult to define, there must be something that led you to your current position. That fact alone is one that many people around the world will never get to experience.
I’m often reminded that I have several friends who are products of a bad economy and struggle to remain employed, regardless of how talented they are. As tough as it is, train yourself to find joy somewhere.
Fill Your Tank.
If you can’t do what you love, it’s important to fill those holes somehow. Don’t let your passions die at the expense of your job. If they do, you’ll hold grudges against your career choices and grow even more bitter and frustrated. Volunteer at local schools or churches, or consider taking art or dance classes. Plant a garden or pursue other hobbies you have always been curious about.
Fight the temptation to veg and do something that will fill your tank before the next workday.
I know what it’s like to feel warn out after a long day, and the magnetism to the couch can be incredibly strong. Fight the temptation to veg and do something that will fill your tank before the next workday. Not only does it bring healthy variety to your life, but you may also meet new people and create stories to share around the water cooler.
Track and Reward Your Growth.
Especially if you aren’t rewarded with tangible career benefits, find little things to do for yourself when checklists are completed or major projects come to an end. Keep samples of your work so you can look back and see growth. Not only will that provide a morale boost, but growth samples like that may also be helpful when the next job interview comes around.
I hope you find a job that fulfills you and brings you joy. I really do. But whether you have one or not, remember that hard work isn’t a bad thing and it will help you grow.
Maybe that’s what kept the seven dwarfs whistling.