When I graduated college in 2011 I had a degree in biology and no idea what I wanted to do. This is probably not a foreign idea to many people who have recently graduated or are soon to graduate. As my graduation date approached, I recall doing anything I could to find a job so I could pay the rent in my future apartment. I eventually landed a job at a corporate office doing customer service support – thrilling to say the least (read: sarcasm).
As I was graduating, I knew I wanted to go to graduate school but I didn’t know what I wanted to study. I made the decision to take a year off and work in a job that I did not truly love in order to distill my thoughts and ideas into a logical next step. At that time, I saw myself going down two distinct paths: a doctoral program in Biology or a Master’s program in Higher Education. As an undergraduate student, I always wanted to work in a zoo and play with lions and tiger all day; however, as I progressed through my undergraduate career, I became more involved on campus and found a passion for campus activities. For someone reading this post, you may be in a similar situation – wondering which path to take or what the right answer is. My advice to you is to give yourself the time and space to sort through your thoughts and see what most aligns with your passions and values – for me, this was pursuing a degree in Higher Education.
I went on to obtain my Master’s and in 2014 graduated from the Florida State University Higher Education Program. Since then, I have been working in Washington, D.C. in Residence Life and have experienced a number of amazing opportunities, and equally amazing challenges. The one thing I’ve learned through my first year as a Student Affairs professional and during my year off between undergrad and graduate school is that we must find joy in our work. We must look for joy in the process of our work, and not in the result. If we are constantly looking so far ahead that we cannot stop and see the positives of our current situation we are robbing ourselves of happiness. I was so dissatisfied with my time during my year off because I was unwilling to look at my present and was constantly looking ahead to graduate school rather than enjoying my time with friends and family in the area. Then, during my first year of work after my graduate program, I became frustrated when processes hit a roadblock or got held up because I wanted to check things off my to-do list and move on to the next item.
To truly find the joy in our work and end unemployment happiness, we must be willing to focus on the now and give credit to the enjoyable moments. With that said, we must be aware of where we are headed. A colleague of mine has a great analogy for this: we must first have a target to throw a dart at rather than throwing a dart then drawing the target around where the dart landed. In this analogy, an awareness of where the target is important but focusing more on the process of playing the game and then making modifications based of your performance may lead to a more enjoyable experience and improved results.
So what are some ways you can find joy in the process of your work rather than the results? Is the pursuit of excellence more appealing to you than the achievement of excellence or vice versa – why?