Are People Who Have Their Dream Jobs More Productive?

Do productive people always have their dream jobs?  No.  Are you more productive when you enjoy what you’re doing and are happy in your work?  Yes. 

So do you find your work fulfilling?  Or are you just going through the motions to pay the bills?  What if you’re in a job that is a springboard to the next one?  That’s fine.  There’s a difference between everyday annoyances and unsettling, deep malcontent.  Life’s too short to keep a job that makes your stomach hurt.  As they say, do what you love, and the money will follow. 

How do you know if you’re in your dream job?
• Make a list of your dreams.  You may have only one; you may have several.  Some may be really big.  Some may be small.  “I want to make jewelry and sell it online.”  “I want to be a meteorologist.”  “I want to start my own pension consulting business.”
• Make a list of your passions.  What do you love?  Singing?  Playing guitar?  Photography?  Is there a dream job in there somewhere?
• Make a list of your core values.  Is it important to you to have ample time to enjoy life?  Is it important to you to be helping others through your work, no matter how many hours of the week it takes??
• Make a list of what you’re naturally good at and love to do.  Teaching people how to play tennis?  Working with animals?  De-cluttering homes and offices?  Cooking French cuisine?  Is there a dream job in there somewhere? 

Now why don’t you do it?  Perhaps you’re afraid you won’t make any money.  Perhaps you’re afraid to leave a high-paying job in search of a more fulfilling one.  Perhaps you’re afraid you’ll fail.  Whatever the reason, fear is a really energy drain.  It will paralyze you, lock you up, and keep you in the status quo.  If you are to find your purpose and experience the flow, you will have to muster the courage to fight it off.

Happiness is not all about money.  You could have a BMW, a home with 4 bathrooms, your kids attend the best schools that money can buy, and your wife looks like a supermodel.  But perhaps you’re still unhappy, and you can’t figure out why.

As Stuart Goldsmith says in his book The Seven Secrets of Success, “Becoming wealthy has little to do with buying a bunch of silly toys.  You have to be a very sad individual if this is the limit of your imagination.  How much champagne can you drink?  How many Rolexes do you need?  How big a wardrobe of clothes will satisfy you? This is all junk.  They are toys—harmless baubles to amuse us for five minutes.  Attaining these toys is not the purpose of a noble life.” He adds, “. . . Happiness comes from leading a worthwhile life and producing something of quality and value.  Sitting around in a mansion and staring at your Porsche will not make you happy.” 

It’s quite normal and understandable for people to want a lot of money.  Having a lot of money, especially in a capitalistic society, is equivalent to having plenty.  This is an instinctive, evolutionary drive.  Of course you don’t want to have to walk 20 miles with your Neanderthal club in hand to find a food source.  But in a capitalistic society such as ours that’s brimming with shiny things, this perfectly reasonable drive morphs into greed.  And before you know it, we equate money and things with happiness.     

But it’s not money in and of itself that makes us happy.  It’s the freedom that money provides that opens a big, wide door to the land of happiness.  In other words, if we’re not living hand to mouth, we have the time to pursue what we truly love—whether that’s writing a novel, volunteering full-time for a homeless shelter, or having time to watch the sun set every single evening. 

How much did you spend on your most recently acquired boast-worthy possession?  What if you were to that same amount of money and donate it to a charity that feeds the hungry?  Can you picture the poverty-stricken child whose face lights up when she receives a week’s worth of hot meals?  Which brings you more happiness, the possession, or the child with a full stomach? 

How do you like to make the world a better place?  Helping people overcome illness?  Working with the mentally handicapped?  Teaching people how to exercise? 

If I looked at the way you spend your time, would I be able to tell what’s important in your life?  The majority of people spend far too much time working and not enough time with their loved ones.  Then they arrive home and have no energy left to devote to their spouse or children.  They take the day’s problems out on the people they love—the entire reason they’re working in the first place.  You say your family is important to you.  Can people tell you value them by the way you spend your time?  You say your significant other is the most important thing in the world.  How much time have you spent spending time with them versus spending time working?  You say your spirituality is important, but how much time do you spend praying, reading, meditating, attending services, volunteering, or whatever reflects your beliefs?  Is it merely an outside facade?  Say and do the same thing.  Be congruent.  Or just stop saying it and be yourself.  To be in alignment with your values, what you say and what you do should be the same.

Bottom line: Adjust your career and your life balance so your time reflects what matters to you most.  Put some metrics on your priorities.  Companies measure their results, and you should measure yours.  Spending time with my family is my greatest pleasure in life.  Work is just my hobby.  I only want to be out of town five nights per month.  I want to eat dinner at home 25 days per month.  I want to take six weeks of vacation each year.  I work no more than 45 hours per week, although I could easily work 100.  Keeping track of my behavior each month makes me accountable; I know immediately whether my schedule is meshing with my priorities and my values.  These figures are in front of me as a constant reminder of what I’m trying to accomplish with my life. 

Assess how you’re spending your time.  What are you doing with it?  Watching TV?  Flipping through magazines?  What would you rather be doing?  What are your metrics going to be?  What do you want your epitaph to say?  “He had a well-mowed lawn.”  “There wasn’t one speck of dust in her house.”  “His Porsche was really shiny.” 

Do.  Don’t dream.
© 2008 Laura Stack.  Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, author, and professional speaker who helps busy workers Leave the Office Earlier® with Maximum Results in Minimum Time®.  She is the president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc., a time management training firm specializing in productivity improvement in high-stress organizations.  Since 1992, Laura has presented keynotes and seminars on improving output, lowering stress, and saving time in today’s workplaces.  She is the bestselling author of three works published by Broadway Books: The Exhaustion Cure (2008), Find More Time (2006) and Leave the Office Earlier (2004).  Laura is a spokesperson for Microsoft, 3M, and Day-Timers®, Inc and has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, and the New York Times. Her clients include Cisco Systems, Sunoco, KPMG, Nationwide, and 3M.  To have Laura speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401.  Visit to sign up for her free monthly productivity newsletter.



  1. Hi,

    I was in this exact same situation before I found my dream job – my current job, being an Admin Assistant for a large firm.

    I worked at a firm for 1 year, then wanted to leave because of the constant abuse. They offered me more money and it was quite a big raise, so I thought, might as well stick it out for a bit. 1 1/2 years after this, I decided, “That’s it, I’m leaving!”

    I then realized that money really isn’t everything. I took this job, which paid a little more, but knew that the raises weren’t as good, but I didn’t care.

    I am still in my current job, almost 3 years running, and still loving every minute of it.

    Thanks for some of the tips here though.

    Richard Rinyai

  2. Umm well not neccessarily! Some people got their dream job through connections or sheer luck and are lazy and aloof about it. It is the people who had nothing and worked up to a career they love (not the same as a ‘dream’ job) who are really productive!