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Many people who come to me for coaching want to find work that is fulfilling, in line with their beliefs and what they want to achieve in life.
In the space of one generation, there has been a huge shift away from our job just being a source of income that allows us to survive to the expectations that work should be fulfilling and, even better, allow us to contribute to making a better world.
I personally think that it is a beautiful sign that more and more people want to be happy at work and want to contribute to making the world a better place. This is also why there has been a proliferation of people becoming life coaches(!), yoga teachers, mediation guides etc.
This shift in mindset, however, carries with it two strong beliefs that are, well, wrong.
MYTH #1 Working in a “meaningful” job will automatically make you happy
When I moved to India at the age of 21, I worked for several years in NGOs in sustainable development, the environment and one which focused on helping refugees.
During most of my teenage years I was convinced that working for an NGOs was the only way to have a job aligned with my desire for a meaningful life. However, I discovered that even in organisations that were built to make the world a better place, there are toxic work cultures which can make you miserable. I discovered how frustrating it was to try to help within a fixed framework that was sometimes very limiting and I remember going home some evenings feeling like I was failing those we were promising to help.
This is not to say that all NGOs are bad. On the contrary, NGOs are tremendously important and I personally know many that do a wonderful job. I am grateful every day for all the incredible people who make these possible. But this is to say that it is a difficult job that may not make sense to everyone. I didn’t for me.
MYTH #2 You will never find meaning and purpose in a pay-the-bills job
After several years working in the NGO field, feeling exhausted and disillusioned, I joined a corporate job. I initially felt that I was betraying my values, but I also needed money and some mental rest. This was my first experience in a corporate environment and I was very lucky that I found a place where there was great respect for employees, a team spirit and a dedication to work.
While our work didn’t involve making the world a better place (not in a direct way at least), I met inspiring colleagues who used their free time to do what they were passionate about, whether it be sports or being involved in charities. I discovered that a company that pays you well, that enables you to have a healthy work-life balance and that treats its employees with dignity and respect was a breeding ground for people who go out in the world and find their own meaning there. I discovered that when you are paid enough to meet your needs and desires, when your work doesn’t suck the energy out of you and when you have a good work-life balance, you have energy, time and money that you can use in what you believe is meaningful.
There are, of course, many people happy in a “meaningful” job and many, many unhappy people in corporate jobs. But the opposite is also true.
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Today, I have two businesses.
My first business, ECRUU, is a commodities media monitoring company I started 5 years ago with my brother. It is doing well and it is enabling both of us to live many of our dreams and to have a healthy life-work balance. My brother loves to travel and go on incredible adventures (like cycling from Switzerland to Singapore - crazy dude) and I am passionate about my horses and my desire to share what I have learned about emotions and communication. That’s my other business, Stuff Talks.
I used to think that having these two businesses would be incompatible because each company’s focus is completely different. But today I know that both businesses fulfill different sides of me. Without ECRUU, I would certainly not have had the energy, time and finance to launch Stuff Talks. Similarly, today, I am using what I have learned (and continue to learn every day) with Stuff Talks to make sure that ECRUU is a good company that allows the people who work for it to be well treated and find balance in their work and personal lives.
I used to think that having these two businesses would be incompatible
My two businesses feed into each other in ways I would not have thought possible a few years ago, and they allow me to explore and show two different sides of me that are inherent to my well being.
A few years ago, I would have kept Stuff Talks “hidden” from my ECRUU world, and vice versa. But living in this fragmented way takes a lot of energy that I would like to put to better use. I also know many wonderful people in my ECRUU world who do incredible things on the side of their work, whether it be living on an off-the-grid farm, taking wildlife photos for National Geographic or funding scholarships for under-privileged kids.
Meaning and pay-the-bill jobs need not be contradictions. On the contrary, one can enable the other.
Over the next few weeks, I will introduce you to people who show that this is the case and who have been inspirations for me.