How do you design a career you love?
Many people struggle to find a fulfilling career. Some are so disillusioned that they believe they can never do something they genuinely love for a living.
While we may believe that all we need is money and the corresponding social status, research shows otherwise. According to a study from Princeton University, people don’t report any greater degree of happiness once they make more than $75,000 a year. This study is more than a decade old, so the threshold might have shifted to reflect our current lifestyle and living cost. To better understand the role money plays in today’s world, let’s refer to research on job satisfaction.
One of the most interesting job satisfaction theories was the Motivation-Hygiene theory developed by psychologist Frederick Herzberg. This theory suggests that there are two types of factors leading to job satisfaction: motivation factors and hygiene factors:
- Motivation factors are intrinsic. They are higher-level psychological needs having to do with achievement, recognition, and responsibility.
- Hygiene factors are extrinsic incentives like salary and social status.
It is a common belief that the more hygiene factors we have at work, the happier we are. But it is not true. While the lack of hygiene factors will make people dissatisfied, having more of them does not necessarily make people happier. This suggests that compensation needs to be fair, but the more does not mean the merrier. Motivation factors, as research shows, are key to a fulfilling career.
Based on the theory, we will first explore how to focus on the motivational factors and then take care of the hygiene factors by turning what you love into creating values.
What do you really want?
There is no right or wrong when it comes to wanting, nor is there good or bad. Too often, we get trapped by what we think we should do. Some might want to be successful entrepreneurs, while others might want to do yoga in Bali every day. They are equally fine.
To get in touch with our wants, we need to set aside what we think we should do. We all have learned different stories from our family, teacher, or society. While those stories might have worked in the past, they are not necessarily what we want today. To explore what you want, ask yourself:
- What would I do in my imaginary life?
- Why do I want that?
- What is my most ambitious career goal?
- How can I honor my feelings and desires?
By asking yourself these questions, you can help yourself identify your wants in life. For example, I’d love to become a Broadway Playwright in my imaginary life. Why? Because I love to write for talented actors and create stories that change the story of the world. Goal? My ambition is to empower amazing people to change the world.
It’s also important to distinguish between wants and cravings.
Wants are things that will help us achieve what we want in life. For example, if you want to build great products and change the world, you should want a culture where people can do their best work, find the best people, and clarify how all of this works together.
Cravings are problematic. Cravings are usually for things that don’t bring us closer to what we want in life. For example, you might crave a fancy office or excessive perks that might boost your daily dopamine. These things don’t necessarily help us achieve what we truly want in life—they distract us from what matters most.
Knowing what you want can help you make better decisions about your life. Your wants will lead to actions aligned with your values. Trying to achieve something that does not align with your values will bring frustration and unhappiness in the long run.
Find Your Ikigai
Ikigai is a Japanese concept which roughly translates as “a reason for being.” It is not just happiness. It is the feeling that you are doing what you were meant to be doing. It’s a deep joy and fulfillment.
When it comes to your career, ikigai is your unique set of skills that compounds over time. Ideally, these skills are rare, valuable, and uniquely suited for you. Here are a few questions that may help:
- What’s something that’s easy for you to do but hard for others?
- What’s a skill I have that’s very difficult for people to copy or reverse engineer?
- If I get 10,000 hours to be amazing at something, what would it be?
Make a list of your answers in this Notion template and evaluate them against the four criteria for ikigai. The following is an example from Chris:
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