This past weekend I unexpectedly ended up tutoring several students online in statistics and I received a decent chunk of money that I had not planned on earning. This was a nice surprise. Normally I would spent most of my weekends writing and/or reading but instead I spent most of the weekend tutoring. Any extra time I had was spent hanging around the house watching playoff football games.
Today I woke up with a strange feeling…like I missed something I should have been doing this weekend that wasn’t obvious to me at first. This feeling didn’t make sense to me. I had unexpectedly earned money and I relaxed and hung around the house most of the weekend. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.
But the more I thought about it, I realized the one thing I didn’t do was write. I didn’t spend time deep in thought reading or writing about freedom or financial independence or purposeful living or any other area that greatly interests me. For me, these are topics I spend a great deal of time thinking, reading, and writing about because I love it. No one pays me to write about these topics; I write purely because it helps me gain knowledge, grow as a person, and share my ideas with others. Writing about finding freedom in life makes me feel fulfilled.
It brings me a deep satisfaction when I can connect two or three ideas from different books I have read and mix these ideas together in one coherent blog post to share with others. The more I write, the more I consider it less of a hobby and more of a purpose. This doesn’t mean I’m the most talented writer or have the largest audience of readers, but to me that isn’t what matters. What’s important is the fact that I find a huge amount of meaning and value in writing.
Writing is painfully hard, it’s challenging, it can be infuriating. I step in the ring almost every day with Writer’s Block. It’s a persistent foe. Some days I feel like I have nothing important to say, but I write regardless.
I truly enjoy the process. I relish the struggle. If you find that you must wrestle with some activity constantly but you continue to do it simply because you love it, that’s a pretty good indicator that you’ve found something you’re passionate about. For me, this is writing.
So I realized that not spending any time writing this past weekend was likely the reason I felt this feeling of ‘missing something’ when I woke up this Monday morning. I didn’t devote any time to my meaningful work. Aside from this I also realized that the additional unexpected money I earned this weekend wasn’t able to fill the void of not doing my meaningful work. This shouldn’t be surprising. Money by itself is simply not capable of bringing happiness, but rather it is a tool that can be leveraged to gain freedom, which can lead to happiness.
Yet another realization I had (the realizations just keep coming) is that this weekend was a perfect microcosm for a typical week, and on a grander scale a typical life. I chose to spend most of my time doing an activity mainly for the sake of earning money and with the spare time I had outside of working I chose to hang around and watch TV that I didn’t even care about, leaving me with no time to do work that makes me feel a sense of purpose and meaning. This sounds eerily similar to how the typical work week proceeds for most people. Work 9-5 for 5 days each week and outside of work just lounge around the house. Then on the weekend proceed to spend more time leisurely laying around the house not doing anything meaningful, aimlessly killing time until the next work week begins.
This is no way to live.
Think about it. If what I just described is our typical week, then effectively it is our entire life. This is why time seems to pass quicker and quicker as we grow older because if we’re constantly waiting for the weekend to arrive we’re literally wishing that time would pass quicker. But there’s a way to escape this lifestyle: start doing work you find to be meaningful every single day. Let me explain:
Every individual has some type of interest, some type of creative work they enjoy doing, something that brings them joy and offers them the opportunity to create something to give to the world. As children we all had hobbies and activities that brought us fulfillment and meaning. But as we got older we subtly went through the process of college-internship-corporate job-pay bills-live for the weekend. It slowly became ingrained in us that if something didn’t bring an income of some type that it wasn’t worth spending time on.
So our interests and hobbies and crafts and skills we used to love working on eventually dwindled away into the great expanse of nothingness. We slowly became incapable of knowing what brought us deep joy. And while it’s true that most creative endeavors will not bring us income they bring something even more important than income – purpose, meaning, fulfillment, satisfaction, joy, happiness.
We can’t put a price on these feelings.
The problem is that we fail to make time for these creative endeavors. We spend the bulk of our daily energy at our day job, which is almost always something that brings income but very little deep fulfillment and satisfaction. When we get home we are too exhausted to pursue our own unique meaningful work. And once the weekend arrives it’s a 48 hour marathon to see who can do the least work and waste the most time and money to escape the reality of our dreaded 5 day work-week.
This is the exact reality I faced this past weekend. I failed to carve out a substantial amount of time for my meaningful work and it left me with a completely forgetful, uneventful weekend. I am making a vow to try as hard as possible to not let this happen again.
Luckily, I have strong habits in place throughout my week to help me intentionally find time to do my meaningful work. I wake up at 5 AM each morning and write for around 2 – 2.5 hours. I consciously do this before my day job starts and I have to drive in to the office. I am prioritizing the work that is most important to me at the beginning of the day. When I wake up and I have all the day’s energy at my disposal I make the conscious choice to spend it on my meaningful work – writing. I let my day job get whatever is left over.
To the 95% of people reading this who have a day job that you aren’t terribly in love with, here’s some straightforward advice:
Don’t wait to pursue your art.
Seriously, everyone has some artistic outlet they enjoy engaging – painting, reading, writing, blogging, woodwork, crafts, making music, photography, creating podcasts, creating content on some platform, starting a small business, whatever art means to you. Don’t wait until you’re financially independent to start doing this type of work that brings you great joy and satisfaction.
It’s certainly possible that you might not know what this work is simply because you’ve gone so long without doing it, but I promise you are capable of finding and doing it. Find out what you gravitate toward reading online. Think about what you used to love doing as a child. Think about which activities you find yourself feeling surprisingly fulfilled after doing. These are all subtle hints our subconscious provides us with that nudges us in the right direction and tells us what our meaningful work could be.
Then once you find your meaningful work, make it a priority. Do it the first thing in the morning if you can. The only person currently preventing you from finding and doing this type of creative work is you. You will never look back on your life and wish that you did more work that brought you money and less work that brought you happiness. Choose to find this art outside of your day job that brings you happiness and ignore whether or not you earn money from it because it offers something more valuable than money. It offers meaning.
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