Guilt-Free Career Change: 4 Reasons to Find Your Happy Place

Portrait of smiling businesswoman with dreadlocks, head and shouldersPeople seeking career counseling, like people coming in for therapy, present with a range of concerns, but one common trait is guilt. The idea of trying to do something that makes us feel good, and being recognized for what we do well, makes us feel guilty. Why? Is it early-childhood trauma? Calvinism? The remnants of a strict Catholic upbringing? I don’t know if this kind of guilt has a universal source within our culture, but it might be a good dissertation topic, for those who like that kind of thing.

Here’s why finding something that makes you happy is the responsible thing to do:

  1. Lowering your stress level reduces medical expenses. Whenever I attend a public event, I bring the American Psychological Association’s handout on the effects of stress. When asked, “What does stress do?” I say, “Nothing good.” Stress has been linked to a range of problems, from relatively minor complaints like indigestion and headaches to sudden death.
  2. You may be a better problem solver without unnecessary stress. If the health consequences of stress don’t deter you from pushing on in the rat race, it’s worth noting that if the bad days at work outnumber the good, you’re not thinking outside the box as much as you could. Doing something you’re happy doing would make you a great employee for someone else and relieve your previous employer from the “burden” of employing someone who isn’t fully engaged. How can you say that’s not noble? 
  3. Share your natural talents! Personality tests don’t tell people what they can do. Most of us can adapt to just about anything and do it competently, especially with years of practice. However, it takes real interest and dedication to practice something enough to become extraordinary. (Note to overachievers: Malcolm Gladwell refers to the “10,000-hour rule”—as in, to become an expert in something, it takes 10,000 hours of practice. I interpret that as an awful lot of practice to master something you hate and a clear indicator of dedication and intrinsic motivation if it’s something you love.) We need a workforce with a diverse blend of talents and contributions.
  4. Even if you think your job is boring and annoying, there’s someone out there who would love to do it. We’re all different. Most of us acknowledge this and understand it on an intellectual level, but when it comes to applying the idea to our lives, things fall apart. It’s true, though. For example, data entry and precision work bore me to tears and drive me crazy. I’m very good at both, but I hate dealing with detail-oriented, repetitive tasks. My accountant and insurance biller love stuff like that.

Moving on to something that’s a better fit for you really is the most responsible move you can make. If you are not satisfied in what you’re doing, you’re less motivated to do your job well, you’re less creative, and you are almost certainly more stressed. When work is stressful, it’s a big problem. Most of us spend at least 40 hours a week, over 50 weeks per year, at our jobs. Our “free” hours get sucked up by chores, errands, and other responsibilities. Caring for your family, house, and community are good and rewarding activities, but they don’t offer much rejuvenation when you feel like life is being sucked out of you for most of the week.

By pursuing a career based on fit, you are taking a proactive step toward increasing your health and happiness and promoting satisfaction and productivity in the people around you. Making a career change takes a lot of time, effort, and reflection, so it’s hardly the easy way out of dissatisfying work.

Go forth and find something you love. It’s the generous thing to do.

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Amy Armstrong, LPC, therapist in Denver, Colorado

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • stephan

    stephan

    September 18th, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    I don’t think that I would ever be the person who would feel guilty for looking for something bigger and better. If my work does not satisfy me in some clear way then I know that this is not somewhere that I need to be. I need to be fulfilled on many different levels in my life and I think that for a lot of this this kind of fulfillment comes from work. Not exclusively but it is a big part of that satisfaction.

  • josie

    josie

    September 18th, 2014 at 4:19 PM

    There will be people like my dad who work at the job that they have for all of their adult lives because they make good money and not because they necessarily enjoy the work. I don’t think that he would have ever loved any kind of job really because for him this was always just as way to make ends meet and pay the bills, nothing more and nothing less. I suspect that there are people who want more than that, who want to enjoy what they do for work day in and day out but I think that for the most part people are just searcing for a wya to stay ahead. I don’t think that this is wrong to be like this, but I can say that I know that there is more to life than what you might find 9 to 5 and that it can be worth a little sould searching to figure out what some of that is.

  • Amy Armstrong

    Amy Armstrong

    September 18th, 2014 at 8:14 PM

    Hi Stephan, That’s great! If you are guilt-free about being in a place where you feel valued and appreciated, that’s excellent. Rock on.

  • Cara

    Cara

    September 19th, 2014 at 4:26 AM

    why the guilt?
    I don’t personally get that
    we all want to be praised for doing something well, or at least I do, so what is wrong when that happens professionally?
    I get it that it can drive a wedge between you and your coworkers if you don’t handle it the right way but if you choose to handle it quietly and with some humility then I don’t think that you should have to feel bad about being recognized and called out on something like that

  • Ricardo

    Ricardo

    September 19th, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    I don’t want to be stuck in a position where I am not having a great time and being rewarded for my talents in the manner that I feel i should be, but at the same time there is a whole lot of job insecurity right now so that I think that there are a lot of us who just kind of hang in there hoping things will get better where we are because we are afraid of what the alternative could be if we left. This is the place that I think that a lot of young people are right now, simply trying to get established and figuring out what it is that they love and what the things are that they can just simply live with.

  • Kimberly T.

    Kimberly T.

    September 19th, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    I’m a mother of two girls with a BS in Management. I work as a Secretary!!! Needless to say this is out of my league!!! I’ve been in this position for 3.3 yrs, and it’s been very hard for me. It’s taken constant readjusting to be in this position. I know that I cannot stay in this position forever especially since I’ll be 40 yrs. young on Oct 7th ; )!!! This job really doesn’t meet my needs completely financially, but I’m only 7 miles from home, 6 miles from my daughters school and if I need to get to her in an emergency, I can do that!!! I have flexibility to do what I need to do to keep balance in my life. True, there are many others who would LOVE to have my job, but I’ve decided , I’m not leaving until I’m ready to. I will be working on perfecting a career on RE. Until then I’ve learned to do my job with sincere and not fake joy, realizing this is not the end of the road for me : )!!!!

  • Amy Armstrong

    Amy Armstrong

    September 19th, 2014 at 4:33 PM

    @Kimberly, way to look on the positive side. You go girl.

  • Amy Armstrong

    Amy Armstrong

    September 19th, 2014 at 4:37 PM

    Yep, @Ricardo. Been there and done that up until very recently. People stay in jobs for all kinds of reasons, and if it makes more sense to stay for a while than it does to leave, that’s okay too. I do try to help my clients in career counseling at least look for how to make the most of where they are now if they aren’t happy, but aren’t ready to move on yet. This might be the L.A. girl in me, but when it comes to career development, it pays to be scrappy ;-)

  • jacob

    jacob

    September 20th, 2014 at 12:02 PM

    I don’t think that until it happens to you that you actually realize how detrimental a bad job or a job that you are not happy in can cause you a lot of harm in your life. You might not think that it can cause all kinds of health and emotioanl problems but I am here to tell you that it definitely can. I have been on thr brink many times because of my job, and as much as I know that it would do me well to find something else, that just starts to overwhelm me and I think that if I can just make it through until the next project or whatever then I will be okay. I have been looking for a while and even the prospect of something new gets me all excited, and even if the new job isn’t great I think that I will take it just to get out of the place that I am now. I have decided that there is nothing that is worth so much of my time and happiness.

  • Paige

    Paige

    September 22nd, 2014 at 3:53 AM

    argh How many times have I made decisions in my life that were not the right choice for me but I was doing it just to please another person or co worker? Um more times than I can probably count or more times than I probably actually wish to remember. There is no way we can go through all of our lives doing this and I have gotten a little better at standing my ground now that I have gotten older, but for a time there I had no way of understanding what would make me happy because I spent my waking days and nights trying to figure out what would make everyone else hapy. I am still a little more of that people pleaser than I would like to be but ultimately I have figured out that life is not about living for someone else, that it has to be more about living in the momet for me and what makes me happy.

  • Amy Armstrong

    Amy Armstrong

    September 22nd, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    Aw, yes, Paige. Being nice to yourself is job number 1. If you’re not happy, how can you help anyone else be happy?

  • Amy Armstrong

    Amy Armstrong

    September 22nd, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    @Jacob, that’s definitely a realization everyone has to come to on their own. Plus, we all have different “limits,” if you will, when it comes to how much misery or the type of misery we’ll tolerate at a job. Part of the problem is we don’t have a standard for what is just the stuff everyone deals with on a job versus demands or environmental factors that are beyond what’s acceptable. Something that I’ve seen as a general trend in companies is they’ve basically dropped whatever employee-centeredness they ever even pretended to have since they got a bit lay-off happy in the 1990s. It is just a trend though, and we’re about due for this one to swing back in the other direction. Also, some work environments/jobs are definitely worse than others. No doubt about that.

  • Jordy

    Jordy

    September 22nd, 2014 at 1:30 PM

    When something is right it feels right, and when something is wrong, well, then that is how that feels too. That never makes it any easier or less stressful to leave, but it does at least give you something clear to work toward when you know that this is not something that you should have in your life.
    You wouldn’t keep someone around in life who is forever bringing you down would you? Well some of us would for a while but eventually you kind of get past that and have to cut loose the things that bring you down. The same thing is true with a job. When you know that you are better than what this job makes you appear to be or when you know that you are a better person than what this makes you, then cut it loose and set yourself free.

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