Just like we all have love languages that dictate what we look for that makes us feel loved, we also have a currency in life. What do I mean by that? I mean that you make decisions in your life based on what you will gain from it. You unconsciously make decisions to gain more of the currency you prefer. For many people, currency is money or power. I think this is probably the case because our culture sets it up that way! You do so many things in life to get you to a marketable position in hopes of employment to make you the most money or power. We then measure how successful you are by how much money you are able to obtain or how many people you are “over”! However, what if your currency isn’t money?
I have been thinking about this a lot lately after having some conversations with colleagues about why they make certain career decisions and their assumptions about why other people would make the decisions they make. For example, what if you had a job opportunity presented to you and the salary was actually less than you make now? Is your instinct to say “Why would I take a job for less money? No thanks.”? Or do you want to know more. Does that job allow me more freedom? Does that job fulfill my life’s purpose? Will that job force me to grow? If you are asking more questions, the things you want to know about are probably your currency! For me, my currency is experience and growth. No matter how scared I am, how off the wall it seems, how “beneath” my education level it is, I say “yes” to the things that will gain me experiences and growth as a person and doctor.
I remember one day in high school when I was doing a project researching careers. This exercise was meant to let students explore the possibilities and decide what they may want to pursue. I remember looking at one thing: salary. If the salary was low, I quickly moved to the next option until I saw a number that I thought was a lot of money (which is usually relative to what you grew up around btw). So, I started college without a clue what I was going to do, but I was confident, it would pay a lot. As I progressed, my currency changed. It wasn’t about a career that made the most money, because at that point, I had been to several countries and realized much of the world is happier with LESS money! My currency then became prestige. I chose my major (when they forced me) based on what the most difficult career attainment could be. I needed to prove I could do it. Watch me. Then started the pursuit of becoming a medical doctor…until the moment came when I needed to start medical school. I had the wherewithal to ask myself how this career was going to fulfill me, and I had some real doubts because my work would fundamentally work against my belief system of health. It was going to make lots of money and have lots of prestige, but when those things were no longer my currency, it sounded miserable.
Today, my currency is experience and growth, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. What does this mean? This means that I have pursued tasks “beneath” my career status for the experience. This means that I have taken jobs for less money for the ability to grow from them. This means that when opportunities are presented to me, I evaluate whether I am going to do them based on the growth and experiences they will afford. This means making career decisions that many people don’t understand! If someone’s currency is true currency, then it sounds ludicrous to choose a career with a pay cut. Right?!
Think about this. What is your currency? Truly what you want out of life at the end of the day. If you can identify that currency and make decisions through life based on acquiring it, you will likely be much happier with what you do day-to-day! If your currency is improving the world, then you may not want to take the job that gives you more money to create tv remote parts! Nothing wrong with designing tv remote parts, and if your currency is money, and it pays more money, then it’s perfect! But if your currency is making a difference in the world, then asking if it fulfills your currency will give you a heavy thumbs down pretty quickly. I am throwing this out there because often times people will say things like “You are so lucky to have such an amazing fulfilling career.” I want other people to be as happy doing their work as myself, but the answer isn’t to all become doctors. Some people would hate that because it doesn’t fit their currency! I encourage all of my patients to think about their currency through certain exercises I assign them. In these exercises, it often clears up what they want in life, how to know what opportunities to pursue, and when to say “no thanks.” Then the things that start filling their life, fulfill them because they are acquiring their currency.
If reading this does nothing else other than make you think about what persuades the decisions that ultimately determine what you do for 70% of your life (aka time spent in your career), then it was worth asking the question: What is your currency?