Find your passion to improve your Financial Wellbeing
I often hear friends and colleagues speak about how they want their lives to count for something, or that they wish to make a difference. Yet, some of them appear stuck in jobs which they dislike, that tire them out, or that simply do not inspire them. And some aren’t even employees, but the leaders of their organizations.
Indeed, feeling that one’s job is relentless and unfulfilling – which leads to burnout – is so pervasive and universal that it exists up and down the class register. In her bestselling collection of essays ‘How do we know we’re doing it right?’, British journalist Pandora Sykes remarks that the symptoms of burnout (“exhaustion, anxiety, and feelings of futility”) are felt by everyone from “junior doctors” to “people patching together a retail job with unpredictable scheduling while driving Uber and arranging childcare” (she borrows the latter example from Anne Helen Petersen). Burnout is something I myself have experienced during my 26 years as an entrepreneur.
As an entrepreneur, the risk of burnout extends beyond oneself and to the company more widely, affecting productivity levels on the one hand, and office morale on the other. Burnout’s immediate effect on output is supplanted by its often more lasting effect on wellbeing in the workplace. Indeed, if one person burns out, others can too.
I have written at length about burnout’s effect on Professional Wellbeing, but not so much on how it affects our Financial Wellbeing. Commonly, salaries and productivity are closely entwined and thus plummet together, particularly so if our job rewards us per account or per client, and even more so if we have an equity in the business we work for. Beyond the question of our salary, our self-esteem also takes a hit, affecting the trust and confidence in our abilities to manage personal finances, meet payment deadlines, and make long-term financial plans. Finding passion and joy in one’s job, therefore, is not only vital to Professional Wellbeing, but essential to Financial Wellbeing.
In my own life, I have experienced the power of finding one’s true calling in a profound way. Working for Microsoft in the 90s, I would often come home at the end of the work day and just crash: I was exhausted and uninspired. Not because what Microsoft was developing was boring (it wasn’t), or too much of an intellectual stretch (I have a Master’s in Computer Science), but simply because it was not my project. My passion. Ultimately, I accepted that a corporate misfit like myself had no place in such an environment, and so I decided to launch my own company, Edifecs, drawing on my own tech background to support a field I have since dedicated my life to: healthcare.
But the fact that I eventually suffered burnout during my time at Edifecs shows that we are not immune to stress and overwork even in those jobs that we enjoy and give us a sense of purpose. It’s not only important to find a job which we feel passionate about, but also to nurture that passion on the job. It’s so easy to lose sight of what brought us joy in the early stages of a job as our responsibilities increase and the stakes grow correspondingly. As we tick more and more items off our to-do lists every day, we need to ask ourselves: are we motivated by the joy this job brings us, or by the idea of our success within that job? Csikszentmihalyi suggests that:
There is no inherent problem in our desire to escalate our goals, as long as we enjoy the struggle along the way. The problem arises when people are so fixated on what they want to achieve that they cease to derive pleasure from the present. When that happens, they forfeit their chance of contentment.
As Pandora Sykes similarly suggests,
Tickboxery is a way of skimming the water, clocking up as much as you can without ever delving too deep. [...] The act of getting things done – a sort of flimsy, surface-level productivity – has become more important than the doing.
From ‘Work to get happy’, in How do we know we’re doing it right? (Windmill Books, 2020)
It’s precisely this obsession with what Sykes calls ‘tickboxery’ that removes all meaning from our jobs – even those we thought we loved. It reduces them to a set of tasks and assignments, all but erasing the human element at their core. Indeed, in the age of tickboxery, employees are second to projects, rather than central to them; they are the anonymous agents of a larger cause, rather than the passionate drivers of change. For all the positive messaging in job adverts and career webpages, the reality is quite different.
So how do we reclaim meaning in our jobs? How do we rehabilitate the human element that makes a job fun, purpose-driven and motivating? As a former sufferer of burnout, I found that reframing a job not as something to do, but as a way of learning, was essential to my professional – and financial – growth. In Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert T. Kiyosaki echoes this idea:
In school, we learn that mistakes are bad, and we are punished for making them. Yet, if you look at the way humans are designed to learn, we learn by making mistakes. We learn to walk by falling down. If we never fell down, we would never walk.
People too often choose jobs primarily because of the financial security they come with, or because they offer ‘a foot in the industry door’. Rarely do people choose jobs that will be more challenging at first, but more fulfilling in the long term; jobs that offer opportunities for lifelong learning.
So, choose a job that stretches you intellectually; where you can make mistakes, and learn from them; where you feel constantly inspired by clients and colleagues alike, and find purpose in your personal growth and expanding knowledge. That way, professional fulfilment will act as the backbone to your Financial Wellbeing.