Choose Your Lifestyle, Then Your Career

  • Published on:
    August 13, 2020
  • Reading time by:
    5 minutes

One of the biggest phrases we all hear while choosing a career or area to study is to choose something you love. We’ve all been told that when you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. But is that really true? And if it is true, is that really the best advice to give young people looking to start their careers? We’re told money isn’t everything, which is absolutely true, but it is a significant factor in what kind of lifestyle you hope to lead. 

Doing what you love and living a life you love is not the same

Of course making a living by doing what you love is everyone’s dream. But will you still love that career if it doesn’t give you the lifestyle you wanted? Doing what you love and living a life you love are not the same, and that was the biggest reality check I had to face when entering the job world. 

For example, let’s say you love children and you love helping others, so you decide to become a teacher. Before anything else, I have to say teaching is an incredible profession and a truly noble career. You would be hard pressed to find a job that would be more fulfilling than teaching. However, let’s say you also love to travel, experience different cultures and see the world. Are you going to be able to do that on a teacher’s salary? Unfortunately, reality says you most likely won’t. While this is by no means true for every teacher and your finances include far more than just your main source of income (savings, part-time jobs, spouse, etc), it’s a general assumption that most teachers aren’t able to live a lifestyle that includes large expenses. 

Now let’s look at it from the other angle

You know you want a nice house, expensive car and money to travel the world, so you pursue a high paying job in the corporate world. As most of us know, being at the top of the corporate world doesn’t happen overnight. Most of your early years (and honestly the majority of your career) will consist of long nights, early mornings and maybe sometimes even sleeping at your desk. After a few years, you may be financially comfortable like you want, but will you have the free time and flexibility to really enjoy it? Will it be worth it if you have less time at home or with your friends and family? 

What’s the solution to this dilemma?

How do we find the middle ground here? What’s the solution to this dilemma that we all have to face at some point in our lives? Honestly, there isn’t a one-stop answer for this question. But one thing we can do to help meet in the middle is to stop telling people to do what they love. Figuring out what you love to do is a great starting point, but it’s absolutely not the end all be all, and neither is your salary. What we should start asking ourselves is what do I love to do that will give me a life I actually enjoy living?

And it doesn’t have to be one or the other! I do not want to encourage the idea that you’re either working a low paying job with plenty of meaning or a high paying job without fulfillment. This is so far from true. You can absolutely be a teacher and still travel. After all, teachers have summer vacation which gives them more time off than corporate jobs typically do. And on the other hand, there are plenty of people working their way up the corporate ladder and still spending time with their family. And there are plenty of other careers and professions that have similar factors as they two. What I am trying to say is focusing on the aspects of a profession rather than the specific job itself can help you find that middle ground. And to figure out those aspects, we should encourage people to think about the lifestyle they’d love to have and then the things they’d need to do to get there. 

Maybe, just maybe, if we start by narrowing down what we’re looking for as far as a lifestyle, then we’ll have a better chance at finding a career that gives us both. This isn’t an easy task by any means, and of course sacrifices will still have to be made. Money is not everything, but it does matter more than we like to think. And as a young adult still figuring a lot of things out, it’s the one piece of advice I wish someone had given me. Choose your lifestyle, your values and your goals and your career choice will follow. 

Elizabeth Britner

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