“Good Job” But Unhappy?

“My son Jim has a good job he has. Oh yes! And I’m so proud of him you know. He called me just the other day and always tells me the same thing that he’s doing just fine at work.”

Now if you met Jim yourself and could watch him as he went about his job, you might rarely see the smile he puts on for his mom. You might see lines of stress and furrowed brows of frustration on his face, hear him deeply sighing, frequently watching him pause in his work like he was mentally disengaged from whatever it was he is supposedly working on. You might see him saunter or shuffle from room to room which would be a stark contrast to the pace he has at quitting time.

The conclusion we’d come to in silent observation is the same one that Jim himself has come to on his own; he just isn’t happy with his job. Now the job itself isn’t a bad one. It has the good salary and benefits he was looking for, the people around him are nice enough and the work is what he was trained to do. So Jim is left wondering, “What’s missing? What’s wrong with me?”

Now without really knowing Jim’s history, we could conjecture a number of problems, come up with suggestions and make some recommendations. Could be anything from a mental health disorder to just not being challenged with the work anymore. The one thing I can say with certainty is that Jim would be wise to pay attention to his feelings and determine if this is a short-term issue or a daily ongoing feeling that is getting to be a permanent reality. Without paying attention to his feelings and doing some self-monitoring, he could have the early symptoms of some serious problems.

The dilemma for people in this situation; possibly you who are reading this, is that it’s hard to articulate exactly what the issue is. The job is a decent one; the income not bad, there’s full-time stable hours, the commute is reasonable. And so if all those factors are what you had previously wanted when job searching, you may be left to draw the conclusion that it’s not the job that’s the problem, it’s you. And so like Jim, YOU might catch yourself saying, “What’s wrong with me?”

Well first of all, the fact that you even recognize there is an issue with your happiness at work is a good thing. Yes a good thing. The second thing that would seem to make sense is that unless there is a change in yourself or the job, things are unlikely to change. You’re not likely to just snap out of it as some others might tell you. Hence, some kind of change is required.

You can go on telling mom the job is great in order to keep her from worrying about you and asking you each time you speak with her if you are happier. She may be well-meaning, but it gets tiring worrying about her worrying about you! But you always have choices.

Maybe one of the first things you do is evaluate if your unhappiness is the work you do, the company you do it for or both. If the work is okay but the company is the problem, looking for a similar job in another environment better suited to you might be a solution. If the work you do is mundane, too easy, too repetitive, not really important, beyond your abilities, well maybe doing the same thing anywhere else would just put off the problem and it would reappear again.

So it could be time to look at yourself and move on to another line of work entirely. Some very successful people have suddenly stopped what they were doing, changed careers drastically and reinvented themselves. So an IT Specialist quits and takes job changing tires, an Investment Broker quits and becomes a Fishing Guide. To their peers they couldn’t take the pressure and demands of the job, went off the deep end, went cuckoo. Really, they just evaluated where they were, where they were headed, and made a leap to do what they would like to do in order to be happier.

Sometimes these moves are seen as courageous by others. While they do take some courage, really it’s not so much about courage as it is about getting out of a rut, embracing change as a positive thing and saving themselves. That idea of saving themselves isn’t courageous in their minds, it was self-preservation.

These kind of moves rearrange a persons priorities. Where they once had money and status at the top of their list, they have replaced these things with job satisfaction. They have made a decision to do something that will bring about stress; the stress of a new career, but the stress of that is a different stress than the brooding stress of going in to do a job that no longer provides the happiness it once did – if ever.

I’m not saying you should quit and become a Fishing Guide or change tires. You might be best to see your family Doctor or Mental Health Counsellor; get a mental and physical check up. Do however pay attention to your feelings and act to ward off much more significant and long-term problems. You owe it to yourself.



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