It Doesn’t Have to Be Everything

I’m learning the secret to people who stay a long time in their careers and who never seem to suffer from boredom or burnout. It’s the advice I received 12 years ago from a mentor who said, “Don’t let this job be everything. It’s a job. It’s not your life.”

It’s a job. It’s not your life. 

I think, at least for academics, the job becomes your whole life. Being a professor is everything. That’s the temptation. But what if your job is just part of your life, even a small part? Can you imagine the rest you’d feel and the balance? The well-being? Can you imagine how that would feel?

Back in graduate school, my advisor sternly warned me to never put my life on hold until I got a certain promotion. “Get married. Have children. Don’t put off your life for work.”

Don’t put off your life for work. 

I took both pieces of advice as I launched into a writing and speaking career. It’s a nice part of my life. But it’s not my whole life.

When you have the right relationship to work, you’ll find you enjoy greater happiness, success, and well-being. As I look at the people who enjoy their careers (and achieve great success), I notice the similarities in their lives. The work is just part of an otherwise full and joyful life. One is a triathlete. One manages a volunteering program. One is a quilter. One hosts fantastic book clubs and just wrote a book about how to have a great book club night. One travels whenever she can.

What would you do if your work wasn’t your life?

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