A Career or Living Your Best Life?

Advancing in your career often means a higher salary, more responsibility, being intellectually challenged as well as more recognition. But, closely followed to this can also mean more stress and even less free time.

Why, and since when, has our work and careers become so important? Should we be striving for more in our careers and at the cost of what? Why do we wait until we retire to have time for the things we would like to do now and enjoy life?

Do we really want to climb the corporate ladder or are we starting to see a counter-movement of people saying: “I don’t live for my career! Rather, I choose a career path that really makes me happy regardless of the social and financial pressures?

How often have we heard our parents, grandparents, or generations before us say: “get educated, get a job, get established in your career so you can provide for your future”? What they don’t share is that often that career path comes at a price – usually our health and happiness as we continually strive to live up to expectations – theirs and our own.

Yes, climbing that corporate ladder certainly does bring its benefits such as a higher paycheque, more perks, perhaps a corner office with a view, a shiny new title, and financial stability. But, it also comes with additional responsibilities, pressures, stressors, and expectations. We’ve now been given an opportunity and the perks to go with it, and now we need to give ‘our pound of flesh’ in return for that privilege.

Societal perceptions of what success looks like also contributes to this picture. We regularly see variations of how we should be “living our best life” spread across the various social media platforms and tabloids. This is not wrong, however, it’s also not a realistic perspective. What you’re not seeing is the hours and hours of sacrifice for those perceived moments of “living our best life”.

Another factor that plays a key role is the life plan and milestones we envisaged for ourselves, which often dictates our priorities however, as we shift through these different life stages and milestones, (e.g. graduating, getting married, having children, big birthdays, etc) our priorities and outlook on life changes.

The older generations of baby boomers were conditioned to the lifestyle of getting a job and sticking to it, whilst taking care of your family at the same time. This meant that you were loyal to an organization for your lifetime and they rewarded you with a golden handshake and pension cheque to retire and live out your best life.

This started shifting at the end of the Gen Zs scale who started to question what a career really meant having seen their parents dedicate their lives to having stability and certainty. Many have started to rebel against this idea and instead want fulfilling careers and a lifestyle rather than being chained to a corporate desk.

The Millennial and Gen Zs have certainly changed this narrative by wanting to experience life to its fullest and opting for a gig economy lifestyle or even starting their own revenue-generating activities that allows them to experience life on their terms.

Younger people are also waiting to be more financially established before settling down, often placing large amounts of pressure on themselves to achieve their career aspirations in as short a time as possible. The result being more stress and higher demands on their employer to accelerate their career progress.

I’ve worked with several young professionals of late who are suffering from huge amounts of doubt and insecurity due to not having achieved the plans they had envisaged for themselves, and constantly comparing themselves to their peers and how they are matching up.

The pandemic has certainly forced us to sit up and take stock of our lives and what we deem important now vs. pre-COVID times. With all the change and uncertainty thrust upon us, we’ve started to realise that things we once thought were important may no longer be the case. We’ve realised the true value of relationships, family, friendships, independence, freedom of movement, and human connection.

As the world becomes more technologically enabled together with COVID forcing us to re-evaluate our lives and lifestyle, we’ve also realised we can work from anywhere, that life is too short and we are now searching for the meaning and purpose in our lives, resulting in career shifts as we pivot and re-invent ourselves.

We’re beginning to challenge our definition of success (and failure), be honest about who we are, why we are here, where we are going and what we really want in life.

As we begin to shape the answers to these questions and gain new insights, they are bound to trigger new learnings, profound personal growth, and a path toward living a quality life on our terms.

If you’re looking for a supportive space to lean into while figuring out the next steps in your life, consider joining the Mancave Mastermind Program for men or the Womenology Masterclass for women. Peer mentoring groups openly exploring what’s next, or what could be, and looking for life-improving strategies to cultivate a positive mind, family, and or professional and healthy focused lifestyle.


Paula Quinsee
Paula Quinsee
Paula Quinsee is the Founder of Engaged Humans, facilitating connection between individuals and organisations. She is a certified Imago Relationship Therapy Educator and Facilitator, NLP Practitioner, PDA Analyst, Coach and Trainer. Paula is also the author of 2 self-help guides: Embracing Conflict and Embracing No as well as an international speaker, advocate for mental health, and activist for gender-based violence. For more info: or

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  1. The truth is that the challenge of work-life balance is undoubtedly one of the most significant struggles faced by modern man.
    It can be incredibly difficult to feel a sense of balance when we’re juggling careers, personal responsibilities, family time, self-care, recreation, social time, community service, and more. People who have achieved satisfying and successful lives have specific habits. They understand that they can only be satisfied if they achieve the success that really matters to them. While they appreciate the value of hard work, their definition of a successful life is often more holistic than achieving financial results. They strategically fit their work into their ideal lifestyle. As a result, their hard-earned cash doesn’t feel overwhelming.
    Achieving high levels of professional success while having a satisfying personal life is certainly possible.
    But I also believe that a lot also depends on the context (family, economic, social, etc.) from which one starts and the determination to pursue a project.

    • Tks for sharing oyur insights Aldo.
      Completely agree, it’s finding what works for you, your lifestyle and aspirations that makes it a lot easier to manage and feel like we’re succeeding in the process.

  2. Being on the older side of the Boomer generation, Paula, I can see how we were in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s … chasing careers, chasing money, chasing success. Science and technology had started really coming alive, and so many difficulties that had plagued earlier generations were being solved or cured, so dreams of success were possible.

    But we paid a high price for that in many respects, and as you wrote, suddenly climbing the corporate ladder isn’t all many want.

    I’m grateful to see how we’ve changed, and even to be a part of it. I’ve worked from home for nearly 30 years, even though what I’ve done has changed several times.

    Wonderful message that should give us all much to consider!

    • Tks for sharing your thoughts and contribution Susan. I think many more are starting to realise that a life lived of experiences is far more satisfying than surviving the rat race 🙂