By Rich Figel
In response to my blog on Dream Jobs vs. Fantasies, a reader posted a comment about how he made the move to Southern California to achieve his goal of combining his design background with his love of movies. He went back to school to learn new skills, put in many hours honing his craft, and wound up working on major Hollywood movies, doing 3D stuff. He wrote that there has been frustration and sacrifices to get where he is now, but that is also what has made his journey so rewarding. The only drawback is he's living his dream in SoCal, and he'd prefer to be working in Hawaii. I have a feeling he will find a way to get back home so he can share what he's learned. (Have you noticed many successful entrepreneurs also like to teach and share their knowledge?)
Which brings me to the ultimate goal of a rewarding career: it's not "happiness," per se... it's about finding purpose in the work you do. Time and again, the people I meet who seem most satisfied with their career choices, are those who make a difference in the lives of others through what they do. In many cases, they have survived difficult circumstances and even personal tragedies. Or they have dealt with life and death situations, such as addictions, domestic violence and war. The kind of things that make you question whether there is a God, because it doesn't make sense that a beneficent Higher Power would allow such awful things to occur to good, decent people.
I'm certainly not the first to ponder these existential questions. Coincidentally, I recently came across a piece in This Week magazine about Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who was a survivor of the World War II Nazi concentration camps. His experiences and observations led him to write the book, Man's Search for Meaning, published in 1946. In it, he examined the differences between those who survived and those who died, and he reached the conclusion that it came down to one's attitude. Those who found meaning in their suffering were more resilient. They latched on to some higher purpose that gave them the will to live. They made a conscious effort to endure their struggles by linking it to a specific goal. But the ones who gave up hope did not make it out alive.
Of course, many who clung to hope still died in the gas chambers, so there's a limit to what positive thinking can do in any circumstance. Yet, for anyone who does live through a terrible ordeal -- be it war, 9/11 type events, abusive spouses or dysfunctional families -- the question remains why some adjust, while others never seem to recover. Frankl's book suggests those who chose to help others found meaning in their suffering, which allowed them to find satisfaction and purpose in their existence. Happiness comes as a byproduct of how we live.
By contrast, people (think kids, young adults) who seek "happiness" as their goal in life are likely to be disappointed because what they're really pursuing is short term pleasure. Sure, it feels good to be happy when you're partying or doing fun things. But unless it somehow results in affecting others in a lasting way, you're left feeling empty and unfulfilled. It doesn't surprise me in the least that many recovering alcoholics and addicts wind up going into counseling work themselves. It's a way for them to convert their personal pain and tragedies into something meaningful -- helping others.
I guess that's why I write, and also what I look to do through my Career Changers TV show. By sharing the stories of people who have overcome challenges and adversity, I hope others will be inspired to find meaning in their lives through the work they do.
You can see examples of survivors and people who make a difference on the current Career Changers TV episode, which runs until April 5. For daily viewing times, please visit our website. You can also watch videos from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel.