purple diamond in black 8 pointed star. Word says Vocational

Your work is a life choice that has a huge impact on the rest of your life. Just read the statistics below to see how the choices that people make for their job impacts their life as a whole. We will explore how to determine if your job puts you in the majority or minority regarding wise life choices.

“On average, you will spend one third of your life at work.” 

(Gettysburg College, 2023)

80% of workers hate their jobs.”

(Vaugh, 2018)

Those are some sobering statistics about people’s Life Choices

It certainly seems like we need to focus on improving our Vocational Health, on both an individual level and at a societal level.  Since society, is nothing more than a large group of individuals, and, the only person that we have an significant control over is ourselves, it makes sense that we should be optimizing our vocational health to optimize our life 

So, in this ideal world, what is Vocational wellness?

It is “… gaining personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work…” (Northwestern, 2023) Does your job give you’re a sense of satisfaction and enrichment?  Maybe one more than the other?  Just like with every other aspect of wellness, there is no judgement here.  We’re just looking to give ourselves an assessment so that we know where to work on making improvements.

We all have at least heard of, and maybe know that person who changed careers midlife.  The one who made a life choice to give up “having it all” to follow their heart’s desire.  It’s a wonderful trope that we love to hear.  They make movies and write stories about “those” people. The ones who have rags to riches stories about how they followed their calling and seemingly overnight went from starving artist, to Hollywood star or bigtime CEO.  We love those stories, however, that’s what they are, aren’t they?  Stories? Experiences that happen to other people.  Certainly not things that we might actually do for ourselves. 

We stay safe. 

We stay at the job that we hate.  Or we tell ourselves that the long commute gives us the chance to catch up on our reading.  Or that we need the time to “decompress” before reengaging with our families.  We applaud the people to work for the same company for 50 years.  Then we admire the ones who are still working at 82 years of age. 

We envy the mom across the street who works 65 hours a week, and always leaves the house looking flawless. 

How about the mom waiting tables at 3 different restaurants?  She drives Door Dash with her kids in the car on her days off. 

Miserable Life Choice

In both of these cases, they are miserable.  They want what we all want, to slow down, to give themselves time to just BE.  They want to know themselves, to actually support their family in holistic way, rather than just financially.  It’s the lies we’ve been led to believe.  That we have to do as we’re told.  We have to race and hustle to get by.  Yet, just pause for a moment, is it true? 

Four pictures of a woman.  In the first picture she is wearing an evening gown.  In the second she is seated in a car with a seatbelt on, wearing a tank top and sweaty.  The third picture she is standing in front of a window overlooking Manhattan.  In the fourth picture she is standing in a snowy road. The text over top says Finding Balance.

What would it look like if our Life Choice was better?

What would it look like if we created a world, and an ideal story that was one of hope? One where the ideal person was balanced?  One where their goal was to work, to supply service and products to others, yet still have a balanced life of their own. A life where the money that they got paid supported them to have the time and resources to pursue all their passions, even the ones that only help themselves? What if our work was just that, work, which was designed to support our whole life, and our whole family? 

Is it unrealistic? Right now, mostly yes.  Although, the generation that set us up for this is fading.  And the newer generations are better at knowing what they want out of a job, and out of life. They are better at making those requests, and holding boundaries around what is acceptable. I have hope for the future, that these younger people will gradually help us bring back the balance to work-life that we so desperately need. 

My Life Choice

I want to add a bit of a disclaimer here.  This is the post that I have dreaded the most, because I have not had a great amount of luck with my job/career choices over the years.  I have experienced abuse and burnout.  I was injured, and did not miss a day of work.  I’ve been fired, laid off and quit without notice.  Other times I’ve worked overtime, and up to 3 jobs at once to support my family.  I’ve had to leave a career that I loved and gave my heart and soul to because my body gave out.  In short, I have had a lot of life experiences within the realm of Vocation, and most of them have been memorable, although not good.  So if your experience mirrors mine, it’s ok. I get it.

It’s All Connected

Additionally, your vocational corner is closely related to the financial corner, and also the mental, emotional, and social corners.  Working on any of these corners of your life puzzle will likely impact the other ones as well.  Since you spend about a third of your life at work, you will want something that is mentally stimulating, emotionally and socially supportive, while allowing you to be emotionally supportive to your friends and family.  For this reason, you will see that some of the assessment questions are not strictly related to aspects of your job, they also ask about the interrelationships between your job and other aspects of your life. 

As you give yourself a vocational assessment, you might ask yourself questions like:

  • Am I happy at work?
  • Do I see opportunities to gain experience, skills, and/or responsibilities?
  • Does my work align with my values?  (If you aren’t sure what your values are, that is also a good thing to figure out.)
  • Do I have an impact on both the people I work with and for the actual work that I do?
  • Do I feel like it’s time to make a change?
  • Does my job allow me the time and resources to pursue my other interests at work, and at home?
  • Do I like and feel supported by the people that I work with? 
  • Do I have a healthy balance (for me) of working independently and as part of a team?
  • Do I feel inspired and challenged at work? 
9 Questions to ask yourself to figure out if this job is right for you

These assessment questions were pulled together from several sources. (Northwestern, 2023) (Smith, 2016) (University of Nebraska Omaha, 2023)

As with the other aspects of Life Is a Puzzle, once we have done an assessment of the corner, we can start to figure out what we need to work on and come up with a plan to put the pieces back together. 

Making a Life Choice that Supports You and Your Family

Within this Vocational corner, here are some ideas for how you can move towards a fulfilling and supportive vocation.  First, don’t settle for ok.  If your job isn’t giving you what you need, in whatever category, start looking for another one.  This is assuming that you’ve already attempted to address your concerns with your current boss.  Sometimes all it takes is a conversation to alert them that you need some changes.  However, if they are not open to the changes that you asked about, or they simply don’t have the flexibility to do what you need, it is time to move on. 

Maybe it’s you that needs to make some changes? 

Do you need to change your perspective?  This can be a slippery slope, so be careful with this one.  There is a time and place to adjusting your frame of reference, and a time and a place for accepting that you need to walk away from a situation that will never meet your needs.  I guess the real question that you need to ask yourself is this: Is there a realistic chance that this job can change to meet your needs?  Do you, should you change to meet the needs of the job?  How much will it cause you to grow to do so?  How much will is cause you to compromise your values to stay if things aren’t going to change?  Do you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone?  Do you need to see things from another perspective?  This one is tricky.

Maybe you need to learn and master some new skills? 

This is where it ties into the Mental Corner.  Is there a way to challenge yourself to move forward? 

Does your job have clear goals and benchmarks? 

This is especially helpful when you are asking for added resources, or a raise.  If your job doesn’t have clear goals and benchmarks, maybe you can ask for some, so that you can give yourself a self-assessment.  If your job refuses to give you clear goals, benchmarks, or if what you are doing no longer aligns with your job description when you were hired, these can all be red flags, that it’s time to look elsewhere. 

Do you need to feel more connected with your coworkers? 

This one might be really important at this time.  Right now, as I write this, we are finally, officially moving out of the pandemic.  For the many people who have been working from home, reconnecting, or connecting for the first time with coworkers, might be a game changer, as far as job satisfaction goes. 

In all honesty, this series is my way of putting my pieces back together.  As I said in the first post, my life got pretty tossed a few years ago. And it has taken me all this time to figure out how to put the pieces back together.  I certainly don’t have it all figured out.  However, the parts that I DO have figured out, I want to share with you, so that hopefully, it won’t take you as long to get your pieces back together. 

Your job takes up about a third of your life, let’s work to live, rather than live to work. 

So, after all this, what do you think?  How is your Vocational wellness going?  Have you made a good life choice about your job? Is this a corner of your Life Puzzle that you need to put together?  Do you have a job that you love, that loves you back? Do you need to make some minor adjustments? Or are there big changes in your future? Please let me know it in the comments section below. 

This is the eighth corner of my Life Is a Puzzle Series.  You can find the earlier posts here (Physical, Mental, Social, Spiritual, Financial, Environmental, Emotional) And, if you prefer videos, I’m starting to add video versions of the posts to my YouTube channel. (Life Is a Puzzle, Physical

If this post has helped you evaluate your life choice regarding your job, you might like my monthly newsletter. In addition to links to the posts and videos (so you don’t miss anything!) I also have journal prompts based on the previous posts and challenges to help you grow and put your Life Puzzle together. Sign up below! (You can unsubscribe anytime)


Gettysburg College. (2023). One third of your life is spent at work. Retrieved from Gettysburg College, News: https://www.gettysburg.edu/news/stories?id=79db7b34-630c-4f49-ad32-4ab9ea48e72b#:~:text=The%20average%20person%20will%20spend%2090%2C000%20hours%20at%20work%20over%20a%20lifetime.

Northwestern. (2023). Student Affairs: Vocational Wellness. Retrieved from Wellness at Northwestern: https://www.northwestern.edu/wellness/8-dimensions/vocational-wellness.html#:~:text=Definition,or%20a%20job%20after%20graduation.

Smith, E. (2016, 08). Vocational Wellness: Identify Your Interests and Achieve Fulfillment. Retrieved from Laborers’ Health and safety Fund of North America: https://www.lhsfna.org/vocational-wellness-identify-your-interests-and-achieve-fulfillment/#:~:text=Vocational%20wellness%20is%20connected%20to,professional%20development%20enhances%20intellectual%20wellness.

University of Nebraska Omaha. (2023). Occupational Wellness: Learning & Contributing. Retrieved from University of Nebraska Omaha: https://www.unomaha.edu/student-life/presidents-wellness-committee/occupational-wellness-tips.php

Vaugh, K. (2018, 05 05). You will spend 90,000 hours of your lifetime at work. Are you happy? Retrieved from Meduim: https://kassandravaughn.medium.com/you-will-spend-90-000-hours-of-your-lifetime-at-work-are-you-happy-5a2b5b0120ff