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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Day 19 | Mission

The Minimalists, photo by Adam Dressler

Most people feel extremely uncomfortable when they think about quitting their job or changing careers because they believe they’re turning their back on what they’ve worked so hard to attain: their status, job title, salary, and, to a large extent, their identity.

But if you’re unhappy with your current situation, then you know what you need to do: you must make a change.

Write down what you want to do with your life: What are your values? What are your beliefs? What are your passions? What is your mission?

Ryan did this exercise today and discovered his current situation doesn’t match his desired lifestyle: his actions don’t align with his values. No wonder he’s experiencing discontent!

Of course, Ryan isn’t going to run into his boss’s office today and yell, Screw you, I quit! He’s not leaving his job at all—not right away, anyway. He is implementing a plan to work fewer hours next year (2011), and to eventually live an independent lifestyle with no debt, fewer expenses, and more freedom. Until then he still needs to earn a living to pay his bills (and pay off his consumer debt).

To be clear, we must make a distinction regarding “what you do for a living.” There are essentially three ways people define what they “do”:

You have a job.
You have a career.
You have a mission.

All three are vastly different, and each response tends to explain how happy you are with what you do.

If you call what you do a “job,” then you are probably unhappy with what you do. You go in for your required hours, collect your bi-weekly paycheck, and hope things will get better one day.

If you call what you do a “career,” then you probably have a job in which you are a bit more happy (at least ostensibly). You probably make a decent salary, have decent benefits, and there’s probably some opportunity for advancement if you work obsessively hard. The sad truth here is if you are this person, then you are the least likely to change, and thus you are the least likely to find your mission: you feel comfortable, which means you feel satisfied enough to keep on trucking, and maybe “some day” before you die you will be able to retire and live a more meaningful, enjoyable life.

If you call what you do your “mission,” then good for you—that’s outstanding news! If you’re living your mission, it’s easy to see you’re happy with what you’re pursuing: you have a sense of meaning in what you do, and you feel fulfilled and free because you are on a mission—you are doing what you were meant to do and enjoying it.

If you have a job you hate, it’s easy to change—you just need enough leverage. Usually the easiest way to find leverage is to discover your mission (below we give you some basic steps to find your mission).

If you have a career there’s a good chance you hate it too, but probably on an even deeper level because you feel stuck—trapped by the comforts your career affords you. But deep down you know you’re not living up to your potential: you know you’re not living a life  in which you contribute to others and enjoy the process.

If you’re living your mission, good for you—you’re ahead of 95% of the population. You might want to take this time to rediscover and redefine your mission. It’s important to always find ways to improve what you do: this is how we grow.

Here are the next steps in our journey. We encourage you to do the same:

Make a list of everything you want to do with your life.
Identify your top five items.
What are your top two?
Focus on those.
This is your mission.

Additional reading:

What Is Your Mission?
What Do You Do?
Being Laid Off from My 6-Figure Job (Ryan)
Why I Quit My Career (Joshua)

“Mission” is Day 19 of Our 21-Day Journey into Minimalism. Move on to Day 20. Read Ryan’s journal entries from this entire journey in Everything That Remains. You can also subscribe to The Minimalists via email.