When the career you’ve chosen in life is one that makes you happy, but isn’t necessarily valued by society, much less some of your friends (*cough* counseling *cough*), you being to really ponder why you chose the career you did. In my case, I have really been thinking hard about it. Not only was finding the right job a struggle for me here, but I’m in a city dominated by left-brained thinkers who (I find) to value the softer sciences less. If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist in the world of most people I walk by on the streets in Seattle.
I thought back to why I became a counselor in the first place; why I was so certain this was the career for me. I’ve come up with all my reasons and then some, but I’ve had this internal struggle because life isn’t just about doing what you love, is it? You have to put food on the table, you have to put clothes on your back, and in the future, I’d like to put clothes on my child’s back and food in his/or her mouth. Will doing what I love allow me those things? Things I love secondary to counseling? Traveling and eating well. Do I want to give those up to facilitate my day job? Can you just ‘do what you love’ and get away with it? How important is it to do what you love?
Well, that’s subjective. The more time that goes on in my life, the more I realize that plenty of people on the earth were not raised with this notion of ‘do what you love’ and now have jobs that facilitate lots of other things, like traveling, but at a cost. They give up 40+ hours of happiness and job satisfaction a week for a good vacation and luxury goods. Some are OK with it. Most are not. Some people are lucky enough that they love doing things that pay a lot of money. Those people suck. Just kidding… I hate you. No, I’m just jealous. Pssshhh.
Either way, this has pushed me to think about the idea of even knowing that you are happy. Plenty of people struggle with finding a satisfying job, relationship, and lifestyle. There’s a whole area of counseling for people who just don’t know what jobs will make them happy. I found something I love to do, but why do I love to do it?
Because when I counsel, I flow.
No, not that flow, although I am a fantastic rapper. Do not doubt.
When I counsel someone, I am so immersed in what I’m doing, I achieve flow. Flow is a somewhat meditative-like state where the whole world evaporates until it’s you + the task you are involved in. With counseling, I feel alive speaking to others, solving their problems, and providing empathy. It’s been that way since I can remember. From the point of self-awareness I can remember, I’ve always felt so alive having deep conversations with people, feeling trusted, providing support, and everything else a counselor does. My brain is wired this way.
I got an e-mail from a reader (hi!), who commended me for being a therapist because the work can be so difficult and really just wear a person down, listening to so much heartache, tragedy, and sometimes knowing nothing will ever be the way it should be for a client. That is tough, I won’t lie to you about that one. But, as Jesse tells me when I feel doubt about this career choice, I have never acted more alive, more satisfied, and more content than the times I’m counseling. It fills me up inside. I picture my mind like staticky radio, all garbled and fuzzy, but when I’m counseling (and/or writing), that radio is the most perfect frequency you’ve ever heard. The sound is crisp, the message is clear, and everything else falls to the side.
So, should you do what you love? Do you even know what you love? Start with flow. Then go from there. I’m lucky that I have a wonderfully supportive partner who reminds me it’s not what you do, it’s how hard you work at it and believe in yourself (for the most part). It’s all about values. How much do you value your own contentment, your feeling of happiness, and how you measure your impact on the world? Those things, as much as I want to admit money matters, matter more to me. I need flow in my life because it makes me so happy to be alive. It creates this effervescent feeling that makes my heart feel lighter and makes me proud to walk this earth. I wouldn’t trade my flow for anything. Now, could I get it doing something else? Sure, but right now, I’m happy in this current.
Do you achieve flow? How?
A common example I’ve heard is when you drive somewhere, get there, and then don’t remember how you got there because you were so immersed in the process.