Week after week Lucy Kellaway writes on work and life for the Financial Times and she does it with a rare insight and humour. Her latest column 'Happiness is finding your inner receptionist' is another amazing read. And it set me thinking.
Lucy writes about a friend who's held a succession of powerful jobs in the media. On the cusp of 50, she decided to become a receptionist. Yes, a receptionist. And, she is happy.
Writes Lucy: What impressed me most about her satisfaction was how it contrasted with the dissatisfaction of almost all my other contemporaries. One word describes how most of us in our late 40s are coping with far more interesting jobs: badly.
In varying measures we are susceptible to boredom, fear, exhaustion and frustration. We've all been working for an eternity as it is, but we now realise we'll have to go on working until we are 70 at least and so there is still a long way to go. In all it is not pretty. We feel we ought to leap, but don't how and don't know which way to go.
Actually, all around me there are people feeling like this. And they're not just in their late 40s. They're in their 30s, or even 20s. Show me more than 2 out of 10 folks truly happy in their current jobs!
Quoting a Harvard Business Review article, Lucy notes: The rest of us are falling for the most common misapprehension of mid-career crisis - which is to think this is the beginning of the end. Instead the magazine insists that we have more opportunities than we used to...
Hearteningly, the HBR reminds us that even though some doors may be closed at 50, in reality there weren't so many open ones at 25. This is a truth that we tend to forget: most people are in a rut from the start, blindly pursuing careers with no idea of what the other options were.
Lucy admits that when she was in her 20s she didn't feel that she was deciding rationally between hundreds of possibilities.
I was simply trying to do what I thought was expected of me, and what my friends were doing. My motivation was to do it better than a tiny handful of people I considered to be my rivals.
Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
I'm not saying you need to go and become a receptionist asap. The point to note is that with time priorities change. The very high bar we set for ourselves gets lowered. Life becomes more about the journey than the destination.
But it happens when it happens. Meanwhile, keep smiling as you stay miserable!