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Why do so many people miss out on their dream jobs?

The four biggest reasons we fail to realize our inner potential for happiness.

I have this theory on ‘dream jobs.’

Here it is:

Everyone has one.

It is that simple (unlike 99% of all other theories we learn growing up).

No, actually, I take it back. It is not that simple, although it should be — many, many people, in their lives right now, do not have what they would call their ‘dream jobs.’

I do believe, however, that there is some job or career or lifestyle best suited for every individual’s unique combination of personality traits and skills and things that bring him or her satisfaction, that serene sense of fulfillment in life that so many people seek in a dream job.

So, maybe, the theory instead should be phrased like this:

There is a dream job out there for every person.

Some people are currently living their dream jobs and their dream lives, but the majority of people are not. And the sad thing about dream jobs — most people never find them.

Why is that?

Every individual’s story is different, so this overwhelmingly difficult question cannot be answered in one statement; however, from my perspective, below are a few significant trends that I have seen hold people back from the dream life waiting to be discovered:

1. They don’t spend enough time reflecting on their talents or things that they truly enjoy. One of the key attributes of a dream job is ‘something at which one is talented and which brings one satisfaction.’ And the key to this idea is that this is different for (almost) every person. And that is totally okay. What gives you those moments of pure bliss, moments where the hair raises on the back of your neck, where you taste potential, where you can envision yourself, where you can lose yourself in the joy of what you are doing? So few people take the time, particularly when they are young and are constantly trying new things, to ‘pause’ from life to reflect. To reflect on where and when and how they feel the most at ease and comfortable and enlivened. And to realize that this is going to be a completely different conversation for the very next person. And so, maybe because they are not listening or maybe because other people around them are not chasing the same dreams, they miss out on the moments when their soul calls to them, screaming ‘this is what you are meant to do!’ Don’t let that happen — listen to your soul.

2. They don’t think they could turn their skill into a job because they assume this skill is not unique or is not self-sustaining. Or, maybe, because exterior pressures lead them to believe other jobs or careers are more prestigious or better-suited for them. If a former professor did not pull me aside one day after class to ask me if I had ever considered writing as a career and that, if not, I should, I would have never thought that 1. I was talented as a writer or 2. writing was something that I could turn into a career if I wanted. Some people never get that professor looking out for them, and they can easily miss out on the fact that most people around them do not share this same natural skill, and that this is something that should not be neglected.

3. They have a skill (or skills), but they do not realize it because they haven’t been exposed to it. These can be described as ‘hidden skillsets.’ Imagine a future artist — a painter, perhaps — who has never touched a brush or an easel. Maybe his or her parents did not value the arts when he was growing up; maybe he was told by many people around him growing up that sports were ‘cool’ and ‘respected.’ He or she could spend an entire adolescence — or even a lifetime — never knowing that his or her hands can naturally and beautifully manipulate a brush or that they could create a breathtaking scene on an easel. Because he or she was never able to try. Try things. Expose yourself to things, and find what comes easily to you.

4. They identify this skill (or skills) ‘too late’ in their lives, at a point when they are settled into a career or a lifestyle or a family. And they are too afraid to take the big leap into uncertainty. They are too afraid to start anew, even if it means sacrificing future happiness, because of what their friends or their coworkers or anyone else would say about quitting a career and about abandoning stability and about starting ‘from the bottom’ again. It is never too late to live out a dream.

The good thing about dream jobs — they will always be there waiting for us to find them.

Try new things while you are young. Try things — things that maybe you have always assumed were better for someone else. Reflect constantly. Think about how certain things make you feel; think about things that come naturally to you, and ask others if that is the same for them. Oftentimes, you will find that you are unique. Do not ignore those moments when they happen. And do not ever think that a career could not be made out of these. Many before you have done the same thing.

Try new things even when you are older. Never stop exploring things that interest you — particularly if your current job and/or career does not give the thrilling, spine-tingling sense of true fulfillment that we all deserve and that we all have waiting somewhere.

For us to discover.

Go find it.

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