Does Your Career Wear the Pants in the Relationship?

Occupations provide a sense of security for many people. We get comfortable with a certain lifestyle. We then begin to compromise the life we envisioned for a life that "makes sense" based on our career.
01/09/2014 03:29 pm ET Updated Mar 11, 2014

Many people build their lives within the boundaries set by their job. Whether it is reliance on the paycheck, potential career path opportunities, health insurance, 401(k), or a number of other perceived benefits we receive at work, occupations provide a sense of security for many people. We get comfortable with a certain lifestyle. We then begin to compromise the life we envisioned for a life that "makes sense" based on our career.

When does this happen? When do we stop creating the life we want from an infinite number of possibilities and start to make our decisions based on the limited amount of choices allowed by our job?

Think back for a minute to see if you can pinpoint the first time you made a life decision based on work... a time when you would have made one choice, but decided to go with another because it aligned better with the parameters set by your job.

Many of us start out in the working world looking for a career that allows us to live the life we want to live. When we're getting that first job, we might be filled with excitement because we see the position as a gateway to living the life we have dreamed of since we were young.

Somewhere along the way, though, this career that was going to allow us the freedom to live the way we want to live takes over and starts to make the decisions for us. Suddenly, we find ourselves building our lives within the confines of our career, rather than the other way around.

Now that doesn't sound like much fun to me. If you agree, I have some good news for you. The fact that we recognize that this is happening is enough to turn the tables in our favor.

There's certainly nothing wrong with living life this way. In fact, it works for the majority of the people in this country. But if you're someone who wants to take full control of your life, then asking yourself the following questions may help you get there.

Question #1: Are the majority of my life decisions made freely? Start out by making a list of all the times you make decisions based on your job. By tracking these instances you will begin to see where your job "wears the pants" in the relationship. Slowly, you will also begin to see how much (or how little) control you really have with regard to choosing the life that YOU want to live.

You may realize that you do, in fact, have control over most, if not all, of your life decisions. If that's the case, then great! You may not need to take any additional actions. However, if you find that you are making decisions that actual compromise the life that you envisioned earlier in your career, then it's time to get on your horse and do something about it.

Question #2: Does my job provide me with a sense of security? If yes, then I recommend discovering why you feel that way. Do you feel secure because you cannot live without the income provided by your current position? Is this the only way you can earn that income? What other ways might you be able to earn, or passively collect, income? (How to generate passive income is an entirely separate conversation, but certainly an important one for anyone interested in cutting ties from their current job).

You might also feel that your benefits at work provide you with a sense of safety and security. Is that really true? Maybe it is. Can you actually explain those benefits though? Are they only available through work or is there another way that you can obtain the same coverage and/or protection elsewhere?

Question #3: How much money do I need to make to live the life I desire?" You might read this question and immediately say, "Definitely more than I'm making now!" And that may very well be the case, but do you truly know the answer? Have you actually looked at how much money you spend and where you spend it? Physically putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to put together a cash flow statement might reveal some interesting dynamics with regard to your spending. At the very least, it will be an eye opening experience.

I'm not saying that the above questions have a right or wrong answer. I'm also not saying that you need to leave your job to find something new. What I am saying is that it is important to check in with your life from time to time to see if you are on track to achieve the results that you initially set out to achieve when you entered the working world. Pondering these questions, or better yet, having these conversations with your loved ones may result in some very interesting discussions about where you are in life and where you are going.

It's never too late (or too early) to begin asking yourself these important questions. Personal clarity is underrated in our country and it's time we change that. It may provide you with more control over your life now and in the future. Now, that sounds like something worth having, doesn't it?