Over the past month, during my conversation with friends, I asked them three questions:

1. Are you happy with your job?
2. If you are not, why are you doing it?
3. What would you do otherwise?

It didn’t amaze me that 9/10 who answered had a negative or passive answer to the first question. Many are at their current jobs because of societal pressure to ‘do the right thing’, financial security, and unwillingness to forgo their current lavish and comfortable lifestyle. When it came to the last question, people were stumped. Some asked if it was for the ideal world — a world where fairies and elves lived in, where we could be as carefree as butterflies. No, it isn’t for the ideal world, but for you. What do you want to do. What would make you happy? What is your personal definition of happiness and success?

Our current generation is hungry for many things — greed, love, travel, play, technology, food, and the list goes on. We have acquired a tonne of knowledge that our forefathers did not have access to. Google, Apple, Samsung, Yahoo, Microsoft. These names have became staple brands in our household. Walmart, Loblaws, Wholefoods, NTUC, Marks & Spencer — our grocery and household shopping place. Remember the travel agents? Who?! Oh, you mean, Expedia.com? Our generation has been spoilt, to the extent that we can’t imagine life without access to such ‘commodities’. Can we survive without them?

When it comes to jobs and financial security — how much does one need to survive in an urban city? A highly educated friend of mine brought a can of soup to work the other day, and said, “I can’t believe that my life has boiled down to this. Living on canned soup.” My reply, “It’s okay. Cheer up.” My friend took the plunge to do a startup with another friend, and because it’s always a “make it or break it” culture in the startup world, they are still crawling up the ladder to glory at a slow pace. Is that bad? No, it’s not. In another conversation with this friend, I asked him if he was happy. He was one of the few who gave me an affirmative answer – Yes. He is happy that he dared to go against the grain to develop a product that he feels would benefit our world in the long term. You might think that it’s a bit of a stretch, but to me, it’s about making a dream come true. To be able to experience rough times is part of parcel of the road to success, only if we persevere long enough.

Society has evolved to the point that we look up to those who can afford big cars, houses, constant vacations, and expensive clothes. Is this a skewed mindset of ours, or have we lost the essence of the meaning of life? Another friend of mine is completely torn at her job and absolutely hates it. She is doing it because of societal pressure and is afraid that she wouldn’t be able to find a job should she quit right now. Perhaps I am idealistic and because I haven’t ventured out into the corporate world. What happens if this girl fits a company’s values, mission statement, etc, but quit her previous job because she wasn’t happy with her work? Is that wrong? Why people judge others in such a materialistic and close minded manner is beyond me.

Recently this year, my best friend came to me for advice. She wanted to quit her job at a big technology company to pursue a career in teaching at a special school. She was discouraged by many, including family, because she wouldn’t be able to grow (i.e. rise the corporate ladder) in the school. My advice to her was simple, I said, “Go for it. I know that that would bring you happiness, so you should do it.” And She did. She quit her job and started working at the special school. Is she happy? Hell yes. Extremely. And it warms me up inside when she sends pictures of her students and relates her special moments with them to me. She found a job that suited her just right. Does it pay well? Perhaps not, but happiness at a job has more personal value than what money can offer you.

I’m not asking everyone to give up their corporate jobs right now, or whatever that you might be doing. But seek for happiness, always. We shouldn’t leave this planet with regrets, but leave with peace and joy that we found and experienced happiness.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking. Don’t settle.”
– Steve Jobs

Featured Photo Credits: NBWildflowers