Rule 1. The work has to be the reward.
One of the biggest mistakes people make in their careers is to treat work primarily as a means to an end. Whether that end is money, power, or prestige, this instrumentalization of work leads to unhappiness.Rule 2. An interesting career is better than a fun career.
Interest is considered by many neuroscientists to be a positive primary emotion, processed in the limbic system of the brain. Something that truly interests you is intensely pleasurable; it also must have meaning in order to hold your interest. Thus, “Is this work deeply interesting to me?” is a helpful litmus test of [for] a job.Rule 3. A career doesn’t have to be a straight line.
Scholars at the University of Southern California have studied career patterns and come up with four broad categories. The first are linear careers, which climb steadily upward, with everything building on everything else...There are three others. Steady-state careers involve staying at one job and growing in expertise. Transitory careers are ones in which people jump from job to job or even field to field, looking for new challenges. Spiral careers, the last category, are more like a series of mini careers—people spend many years developing in a profession, then shift fields seeking not just for novelty, but for work that builds on the skills of their previous mini careers.Rule 4. Beware of unhealthy passions.
This rule refines Rule 3. Yes, look for something in which you are intensely interested. But go further and ask, “Is my interest obsessive, or harmonious? Does this job or career bring out the best in me? Does it make me a happier, better person, or, in pursuing it, am I neglecting other important things life has to offer?”
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