There is a shift happening now redefining success, purpose, and what it means to live a good life. Living in a state of perpetual permacrisis has left us feeling burned out, exhausted, and discouraged. When the future feels as it does now – uncertain and plagued with the potential to be less tenable, comfortable, prosperous, or safe – it affects our priorities, our nervous systems, and our choices in how we spend our energy, time, and money.
Busyness is no longer a coveted badge. Constant striving for external rewards and validation has diminished. Sacrificing joy now for a promised carrot years down the line isn’t a decision we’re willing to make for ourselves, our families, or our communities for the long-term anymore. We’ve learned those carrots can disappear or rot.
Instead, more and more people are being honest about and focusing on what truly matters to them, what grounds and delights them. They are amplifying and advocating for what they view as the good in the world, not at the expense of themselves, but at the expansion.
They are quieting the outside voices and influences to understand how they actually want to pilot their own lives, for the long-term, yes, but especially for the day to day, the moment to moment. They understand that the decisions they make today snowball into the life they will live and the world in which they will live it in.
Where we are now is in the transition. People’s behaviors and values are changing but in a landscape still riddled with challenges and resistance, and still operating with old systems, attitudes, and dynamics. We’re looking for creative, communal, sustainable solutions.
I recently listened to Elise Loehnen interview Bruce Feiler on her podcast Pulling The Thread about his latest book The Search: Discovering Meaningful Work in a Post-Career World. Bruce states “The people who find the most meaning and therefore are the most successful on their own terms, they don’t climb. They dig.”
Bruce goes on to describe how most people have five jobs at any one time:
1. Main job: traditional definition; what you do for money
2. Care job: for kids, aging relatives, pets, etc.
3. Side job: something you do for love, like volunteering
4. Hope job: something you do that you hope becomes something else
5. Ghost job: an invisible time suck that takes a huge amount of time, like battling discrimination, staying sober, struggling with mental health
He argues that the reason we have these multiple jobs – at least the first four – is because they are a way to cobble together meaning in our lives. And, that the one thing that is non-negotiable for everyone is that they want meaning in their lives.
Elise and Bruce go on to discuss how the side jobs, the hope jobs, et cetera, enhance and compliment the way we feel about or perform at our main jobs, dispelling the myth of employees’ outside pursuits being threatening for an employer. These other jobs make people more valuable employees, because they make happier, more content humans. Constantly grinding on a linear path doesn’t. A life centered on meaning and meaningful expression augments us.
This made me think about onX’s recent report, Breaking Trails, which outlined the state of outdoor experiences amid the recreation boom. Participation in outdoor recreation is at an all-time high and continues to grow across many demographics. A good thing; I think we are all in agreement and aware of the positive impacts that time in nature can have on us.
The statistic that gave me pause in Breaking Trails was – “Seventy-seven percent of outdoor enthusiasts head outside 12 or more times each year. Yet, only 19% of outdoor enthusiasts commit to … stewardship activities annually."
How do we close that gap? How do we create a cultural shift where more of us (hell, all of us!) are finding side jobs or hope jobs (or main jobs) in the spaces (whether they are physical, emotional, intellectual…) that we cherish, that support our well-being individually and collectively?
OnX describes an outdoor mentorship approach that could inspire many to shift from being “users” and “visitors” to “protectors” and “stewards”. They looked at the commonalities in the people that were participating in stewardship annually and found that they were typically younger, grew up in the outdoors, do multiple activities, and/or are an expert in at least one activity.
An outdoor mentorship program focused on education, exploration, opportunities, and access, has the potential to make people proactively, and more easily, involved in what they love, and reap the rewards of that active involvement. It’s exactly this line of thinking – and more importantly, the implementation of this line of thinking – that creates a better experience for all of us.
I’ve also been struck this past month by the number of newsletters from fellow entrepreneurs talking about rejecting the endless striving and growth, and instead getting really clear about what enriches their lives, and whole-heartedly choosing that. It’s a reflection of a bigger trend – pursuing meaning over growth.
Emily McDowell, known for her empathy cards and the business she founded, Em & Friends, has been sharing a series about the truth of going mega-viral. She is a lovely human, and it is fascinating to read what she went through. Her business blew up overnight several years ago, and she bought into the story that putting everything and every part of yourself into a business “lucky” enough to experience sky-rocketing growth was a good thing. She’s calling bs now.
Justin Welsh, who runs a business teaching creators how to identify, develop, and monetize skills they already have on the internet, wrote a post a couple weeks ago – When is Enough, Enough? Even as someone who is not blind to the allure – or the rewards – of growth, he suggests: “The real question we should ask ourselves is not ‘How big can we get?’ but instead ‘What kind of life do we want to live?’ The magic happens when we shift our focus from size to significance.”
My friend, Lisa Slagle, owner of Wheelie Creative and super talented human, writes about her Summer of Summit Sandwiches. She’s having a season of giving herself permission and space to truly do what feels right, what lights her up – like building a bike trail in her yard, watching hummingbirds, and saying no. It sounds pretty magical.
I’m curious to see how this shift continues to evolve. How will people get more honest and vocal about how they want to live and work, about what is meaningful to them, about what they are no longer willing to accept? How will systems, brands, and dynamics change to remain relevant, to remain in existence?
What do you predict?