Should You Follow Your Dreams or Get a ‘Normal’ Job?

If you’ve been interested in self-improvement for a while, you’ve probably come across phrases like “follow your passion” or “find your dream job”. You might have read books or articles that push you towards seeking out a career that you love, rather than a job that’s simply a means to an end.

But should we all be looking for our dream jobs, or trying to monetize our passions? Is that a recipe for happiness … or a recipe for disaster?

Following Your Dreams

Whatever the gurus might tell you, it’s not all that easy to make money from some passions. If you love watching TV, you might just score a job as a TV critic for a newspaper … but that’s not going to work out too well if you hate writing.

Hopefully, you’ve got some interests and strengths that are relatively easy to turn into a career.  I’ve loved writing since childhood, and today, I write thousands of words every day and get paid to do so. I have friends who are photographers, designers, web developers … and they all enjoy what they do.

Often, these sorts of interests lend themselves to self-employment (though you can get similar jobs within agencies). Some people love to work for themselves; others find it very difficult to be happy without a steady paycheck and colleagues.

Getting a ‘Normal’ Job

When most people think about jobs, they’ve got in mind a Monday to Friday, 8 – 4 or 9 – 5 office position, or at least something with regular hours. You might have friends or neighbors (or even colleagues!) who clearly don’t like their jobs all that much, but who see a boring or stressful job as an inevitable part of life.

Many jobs are a bit boring. But for lots of people, that suits them fine. Perhaps you’re in that group too: you see your job as just one part of your life, a way to make a living while you enjoy your evenings and weekends. It could be that you’re working hard now in order to take early retirement, or so that you can have a sabbatical from work.

Knowing Yourself

You don’t have to “follow your passions” and attempt to create a career where you get to do what you love all day, every day. For one thing, you’d be chasing an unachievable goal. I talk to lots of highly motivated self-employed people, and while most of them do genuinely love what they do, they’ll certainly admit to not enjoying every single minute of every single day.

If you want a steady paycheck, there’s nothing wrong in working at something while pursuing your main interests outside work. I did this for a couple of years when I started my working life: I had an office job in IT and I carried on with my writing in the evenings and at the weekends.

What’s important here is to know yourself. When you’re thinking about following your dreams, you’ll probably have to face questions like:

  • Would you rather have more freedom or more money?
  • How self-motivated are you?
  • Are you someone who works well under pressure?
  • Do you like to switch off from work at the weekends?

There are no right or wrong answers. Don’t let anyone convince you that you should be pursuing a dream career … or that you should give up and get a “real job”. You need to find work that’s a good fit for you personally.

Strong Finances = More Options

In the current financial climate, you might well be facing a lot of uncertainty about your employment. Perhaps you’re grateful to have a job at all, even if it’s not quite your ideal position.

If your current financial position isn’t great, work on building up an emergency fund, and cutting back your monthly expenses. The better your financial position, the more options you’re going to have when it comes to your work – whether that means taking an extended period of unpaid leave, moving to a new city for a new job, or setting up on your own.

Be open to the possibilities in your own life and career. Don’t rule out any options too soon. Maybe you’ll find that, instead of struggling to pursue a dream career that involves long hours and little money, you’d rather work in something well-paid for a few years to save up first. Or maybe you’ll find that you could cut back on expenses and live on half of your current income –  giving you the opportunity to start up your own business.

Whatever your parents, friends or colleagues tell you, whatever you read on blogs or in the media, there’s no one right answer when it comes to work. It’s up to you to find your own path, whatever form that takes.


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Photo credit: ‘Dream Beach‘ by Big Stock



Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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