(Expected 4 Minutes Reading Time)

When I was a teenager my High School guidance counselor asked me what my dream job was. I scrambled for a few seconds and then started thinking of my interests. I thought about things like baseball, fishing, and video games.

But just as quickly as I thought about my true interests I dismissed them as just hobbies. I had never seen baseball, fishing, or video games listed next to real jobs like lawyer, doctor, or teacher.

“I’ll never be a baseball player.”

“Fishing isn’t a job”

“No one is going to pay me to play video games.”

So, I made up some fake answer and said something like “A veterinarian”. I didn’t really want to be a veterinarian, I just didn’t have anything better to say. I couldn’t come up with a dream job.

“That doesn’t sound like a dream, it sounds like a nightmare!”

That really bothered me. So much so that it still haunted me over 10 years later because I still couldn’t answer the question. I decided to dive in and explore why that was.

After some soul searching I realized that I couldn’t answer the question because it was a bad question. I decided that there is no such thing as a dream “job”. A job is something you have to do, it’s a requirement. In fact, Dictionary.com defines a job as “Anything a person is expected or obliged to do; duty; responsibility.”

That doesn’t sound like a dream, it sounds like a nightmare!

The guidance counselor was asking me a question using contradictory terms. The words “dream” and “job” have no business together. It’s like saying “awesome death”. One is awesome and the other sucks.

But make no mistake, this doesn’t mean that work and productivity are unappealing. Quite the contrary, as most people enjoy feeling productive and doing work that is rewarding. Think about working out, building a home for people in need, or even something like creating a business plan. All of these require hard work but there are people who genuinely enjoy doing these things.

However, as soon as you wrap that work and productivity in a package called a “job” it kills everything you love about it. Do you know why? Because it just became an obligation!

And with obligations come restrictions, both real and perceived. Instead of thinking about work that you would enjoy doing you start feeling squeezed inside of a box, like you have to pick a job off of a list. You stop dreaming and start rationalizing.

Instead of thinking about how you can transform your interests into something greater, you focus on salaries and who’s hiring. And soon after those thoughts arrive your mind gets flooded with dream-killing words like “boss”, “mortgage”, “401k”, “benefits”, and “meetings”.

All of a sudden you start asking questions about your true interests like “Can I actually make money doing that?” or “Is that even a real thing?”

Next thing you know you dismiss your true interests and settle for safety. The dream has been choked out of the equation and all you are left with is a job.

The nightmare is real.

So, I thought there must be a better word. I went to my favorite book in the whole world, the thesaurus, and started searching. Eventually I came upon the word “vocation”. Dictionary.com defines vocation as “a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career; calling”.

Yes! This was it. It is a calling. The guidance counselor should have been asking me about my dream vocation, not my dream job.

“You are free to think, to create, and to invent.”

The moment you use the word “vocation” instead of “job” you break the shackles of conformity. You are free to think, to create, and to invent. Your mind is open and you are free to dream about what you want to do with your life without the restrictions of the word “job”.

And no, this isn’t some hippy dippy utopian view where money doesn’t matter. Surely you will need money to survive. My point is that if you begin thinking in terms of a vocation instead of a job your passions and interests will be at the heart of your pursuits and drive the financial outcomes you desire as opposed to letting money drive your pursuits.

If you are passionate about something you can be great at it. And if you can be great at it you can make money from it.

It’s like Maya Angelou said, “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”

So, forget about a job. Jobs are a dime a dozen. Instead, think about your vocation and pursue it with everything you have so that the next time someone asks you what your dream job is you can say, “I don’t have a dream job, I have a dream vocation. And I’m living it.”