It’s easy to stress out about your work. After all, we live in a culture of success. There are way too many expectations imposed on us by society. Being successful — and not just successful, but visibly successful — seems not as a good-to-have but more as a must-do-or-else-there-is-no-point-in-it-all. The “big break” in our minds usually comes with a crazy Twitter following and articles in Fast Company written about us.
But being successful is just one part of it. There’s also all that talk about “finding your passion” (i.e., making sure that what you do is 100% within your passion circle), “being yourself,” “being happy,” and (that’s right) having a perfect body.
No wonder we all feel overwhelmed. There’s too much on our shoulders.
Psychologists say that you find happiness the way you find anything else: by not actively looking for it. Happiness is found when you let go of the idea that you “must be happy” and instead focus on the day-to-day, living with dignity and purpose. Having healthy commitments and an interesting place to work contributes more to happiness than pushing ourselves to be “our best selves” and being the likes of Zukerbergs and Musks. A network is built not by “networking,” but by following your genuine curiosity, learning about a specific topic, and meeting people along the way who either share your passion or who you can learn from. Doing less, not more, and getting things as a by-product is often the answer.
Something self-help gurus won’t tell you: a simple life (no matter how old-school this might sound) is still the best life from the point of individual experience.
Because when you let go of the need to be exceptional and embrace the beautiful ordinary, you gain something else: freedom.
Freedom from expectation, not being happy until you “get what you deserve”, and freedom to waste a day if you’d like to. You also gain the freedom of not having to have it all figured out. Allowing yourself to be ordinary is incredibly liberating.
Because ordinary people have relationships that go up and down. Ordinary people don’t feel the need to be happy and passionate all the time — they know that some days it’s great and rose-coloured glasses, while other days, not so much (and binge-watching Netflix).
Finally, ordinary people don’t stress out that much about their work. They don’t force themselves to have a job they love 100% — it may be 80% or 90%, not awful, but bearable and stable.
Building a startup, doing world-class journalism, or being a full-time writer — it’s all just work.
And you know what?
That’s okay too.