Growing up in Los Angeles, our seasons consisted of lots of sunshine, a few days of rain, more sunshine, repeat. Now living for almost two decades in Middle Tennessee, I have grown very fond of the passing of the seasons. My favorite is currently upon us, when our world turns red, orange and bright yellow. It is as if nature is showcasing all her magic.
As the beautiful leaves fall and then the cold arrives and freezes our pipes, it always reminds me of how we also have seasons in our adult life. During your twenties, you are finding your way and what career may suit you best. In your thirties, you begin to climb the ladder of success and achievements are paramount. As with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, once those initial “ego” needs are met, you begin to look at the bigger picture. In your forties and fifties, you begin to ask deeper and more important questions of your existence. Your focus becomes more about how your life has meaning and does it impact others in a significant way. Does what you do really matter?
My favorite aphorism in this regard comes from renowned psychologist Carl Jung: “Lack of meaning in our lives is our greatest neurosis.” When you begin to ask the big question and the answer is that you can’t find meaning in your life, then you will suffer from some type of emotional fall out. You can try to alleviate this emotional pain by medicating it with substances, ignoring it with distractions or denying its existence. Some feel this pain and go buy a fancy sports car and have an extra-marital affair (we refer to this as the mid-life crisis). But those actions will only be a temporary solution. This emotional pain will return because meaning and purpose in our lives is what we all eventually seek — and need.
This is a truth of the human condition. It is inescapable.
Every semester, I ask all my students at Austin Peay State University what is the No. 1 reason for them to be in college. Of course, most respond with pithy comments such as “to make money” and “to get a job.” Those are important, I always retort, but the No. 1 reason you are in college is to find your calling — a career that has immense meaning and purpose to you. Once you find that calling, you will never want to retire because you live your true path.
If you are reading this article and you are searching for a career, just starting out on your career, or smack in the middle of it, always know that the call of meaning and purpose will eventually come knocking on your door. Why not answer it today!
Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a professor of human performance at Austin Peay State University. The author of the Washington Post bestselling book, “Full Throttle,” he coaches business executives and speaks to businesses about mental and emotional toughness. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.drgreggsteinberg.com.