A friend of mine, an attorney named Jocelyn, was highly successful and extremely well compensated, specializing in trusts and estates. She didn't mind helping people with the disposition of their funds, was not facing a moral quandary in terms of her deeper values and did not dislike the people she encountered, but she found that going to work increasingly held neither passion nor fulfillment. Although it was a fine thing to be doing and the pay was absolutely great, the way she was spending so many hours of her life each and every workday was offering Jocelyn little sense of meaning or real joy. Getting up to go to work began to seem burdensome, much more like a chore than a vocation. She decided it was time for a change.
Jocelyn looked at the sweep of her days, the activities she chose outside of work, the hobbies she picked up to explore on weekends. She recalled doing some fundraising for a friend's independent movie. Jocelyn realized she had just loved raising money for her friend. Unlike many who find fundraising frightening, embarrassing or simply icky (as though it were begging), Jocelyn really enjoyed it. In fundraising, she found a powerful sense of people coming together, excitement in sharing a vision and delight in seeing dreams realized.
Jocelyn left her job for a job offering a lot less money and a whole lot more joy. She is now a fundraiser for a national organization whose mission she supports, specializing in planned giving, and thereby utilizing her education, talents and expertise in the area of trusts and estates.
Might she have stayed in her job and found a new level of meaning and happiness? Of course. Growing in presence, mindfulness, compassion and insight helps us transform whatever situation we are in. As long as there is not an actual moral injury, a soul wound in our work, there are often ways of forging a new perspective about fulfillment in our jobs. This is the power of our minds that cannot be vanquished by circumstances, the potential we all possess to bring greater awareness and love to wherever we are and be a whole lot happier. But I admire Jocelyn's boldness, her ability to think differently and creatively and thus reform her life using the skills she had spent years developing, while not being bound by ideas of prestige or position or holding onto more of a salary than she actually needed. Staying or going, can we be guided by the understanding that it's OK to want to be happy, and find the determination and audacity to go for it?
Sharon Salzberg is the author of the upcoming book, Real Happiness at Work: Meditations For Accomplishment, Achievement and Peace to be published January 2014
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.