Lately, I’ve been reaping the benefits of living close to the ocean and walking the half-mile to get to the sea. That’s at least a good 20-minute walk, so I fill up that by listening to audiobooks.
This week’s book is Victor Stretcher’s book, Life on Purpose.
On today’s particular walk, he brought up an interesting point that stopped me in my tracks. I know a lot of people struggle with this or aren’t even aware things could be different.
Let’s dive into Stretcher’s concept with a parable.
Two men are asked why they’re laying bricks for work. One man replies that he receives 10 cents per brick. The other man exclaims that he’s building a cathedral.
Do you see the difference there? The first man is doing the work he does simply for the money. The second man is working towards a bigger picture.
So how does that apply to our lives?
Well, a lot of people live life pursuing means that are very external. These include money, success, fame. But all too often, the wealthiest people in the world are still unhappy. Their wealth and success aren’t all they thought it would be.
Then there are the people that are always wearing a smile on their face. The ones that love what they do. Ask them why they enjoy the work their work, and they’ll often give you a purpose behind their job.
So, applied to happiness in general, you can see how these are two approaches.
These two paths to the same means actually have names as well: hedonic and eudaimonic. Originated from Greek philosophers, these terms were coined to help understand man’s quest for happiness.
But every person comes to a point in their life where they have to choose a way. Either towards pursuing joy in external means or instead, seeking purpose and fulfillment.
So which is it going to be for you?
Our society has a hedonic approach deeply ingrained in our minds, and it can be hard to see any other right way. But consider the things that genuinely make you happy.
Now, consider the things you would have to give up if you chose to pursue fame, success, and money to your full extent.
Maybe you would have to give up time with your kids; forgo a full eight hours of sleep; bury your passions deep down; even lose your sense of identity.
And after all of that, plus the countless years of work put into something you don’t care too much about, would it all be worth it?
Will you have lived a life that, at eighty years old, you’ll look back on and be proud of?
Or would you be more proud of a life spent pursuing a career that lit your soul on fire? One where you don’t have to choose between work and family; A life that is good for your mental and physical health.
Would that feel like success?
A purpose behind your work will also keep you going much longer than a need to make money or become famous. In the moments when your work is hard, or things seem impossible, passion will be there to keep your flame ignited.
I remember taking on a job as a technical recruiter. I was five months deep into unemployment and a bit uneasy about having trouble finding a job.
When this recruiter position came up, and I took an interview with them, they were very straight-forward about this being a money-driven position.
The more candidates you placed, the more money you make.
So I went in with this grandiose idea that I would make a ton of money. That I would buy all of the flashy things, I always wanted. That I would start to afford a better life for myself.
Well, spoiler alert: I was pretty terrible at my job.
I always say a monkey could do the parts of that job that I failed at. So either, I was super careless or my lack of interest in the position, coupled with terribly long hours, resulted in me messing up.. a lot.
In the end, the money just wasn’t a big enough driving factor for me. On the days my boss would yell at me for my mistakes, after spending ten hours in the office, I just couldn’t muster up the care to keep doing the best at my job.
Because no matter what job or goal you pursue, things will get hard. They’ll flat out suck at points.
But a sense of fulfillment will make the hard parts suck a whole lot less. You’ll always have that little reminder of the bigger picture in the back of your head. That’s what will keep you going.
You can either think of it as a rude or welcomed wake-up call if this message really struck you. And there’s still a bit of hope. I believe that pursuing your passions can lead to financial success as well.
You just need to find your purpose and follow it as far as you can.