There are four simple words that are ruining your life.
Four simple words, seemingly meaningless when uttered as if they didn’t have the power to stop time and kill dreams. They are comfort coma-inducing as they innocently usher you down the path of procrastination justification. Four simple words: “I’ll be happy when…”
Screw that. Why wait to be happy? Why put off for tomorrow what you can, need, and must have today?
All of us get but just one fleeting whisper of time on this big, juicy, beautiful planet. Why not demand a big, juicy, beautiful life too? Why not love every one of those hours, whether you are at work or at play?
“I’ll be happy when I clock out.”
“I’ll be happy when I’m on vacation.”
“I’ll be happy when I retire.”
What the hell are you waiting for?
If your work isn’t helping you live the life you want to live, then you need to find yourself different work – work that contributes to what matters to you. It should reflect the values you wish to live or the lifestyle you’d like to afford. It should have a purpose.
There is a lot of talk about generational warfare at work. But, each generation agrees that work tied to purpose, however defined, has more meaning and creates more engaged employees. And, employers know that more engaged employees mean higher profit margins. Win-win!
Purpose can be whatever you define it to be. For millennials, it can be corporate social responsibility and transparency. Gen Xers can manifest their values through their work. For Boomers, it can be having a last professional gig that gives back in some significant way.
Purpose doesn’t need to wait.
In 2017, I was sitting backstage at a U.S. military base in Japan, waiting to give a talk about how those transitioning out of the armed services can find nonprofit work. I was introduced as the expert on nonprofits, “the thing that people do after they’ve made their money, and a nice thing to keep back burnered for when the time comes.” Obviously, I lost my mind. To tell a group of self-selected service-minded people to wait for careers of purpose needs to be corrected ASAP, PDQ, and on the double.
Military or not, waiting is bananas. Gary Hirschfeld, founder of Stonyfield Farms, a company which gives 10% of its profits to environmental causes and whose milk all comes from local dairy cooperatives certainly, didn’t wait to start a purpose-driven campaign for after he built a company which sells 13.3% of the yogurt in North America. Neither did Amy McGrath, a retired Lt. Colonel from the Marine Corps, a fighter pilot who flew 89 combat missions (and one very fun flyover on Cincinnati Reds’ opening day), was compelled by what she saw as a lack of leadership in our current political structure and leaving a post teaching government at West Point so that she could run for Congress.
The time to insert purpose into your work isn’t for some time in the future, some happy magical land of “when”, but as soon as you figure out how.