Instead of finding a job, build your economic engine

The slow burn of contentment

Afterthoughts: Humans by Matt Haig

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I was recently introduced to the idea of an economic engine. For all intents and purposes, it refers to ones’ ability to earn an income. The most common and simplest form involves exchanging our time for money. While not all jobs are created equal, the language around needing to find a job to support oneself I find to be quite constraining. Unless you are otherwise exposed to other types of economic engines, then it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there exists only one form.

If life is a car, the engine may keep us running but it is does not work alone. It is inextricably reliant on the other parts – wheels, carburetor, AC, window wiper – to actually function. This is part of my reason for hating the language used around supporting ourselves with a job, career, or otherwise. It often forces people to fit their life with their job, whereas it should be more symbiotic and holistic approach. For example, instead of asking the question what job can I get to support this lifestyle I desire? Ask what it is you want to do first, then the explore economic engines that align with lifestyle.

To extend the metaphor, we use the car to venture forth, it is not built to sit idly in a garage thinking up ways to boost the horsepower or efficiency. A lot of the time, the journey of building out a sweet engine becomes all-consuming. Career progression itself is an intoxicating endeavour, we can thank hedonic adaptation for that: as our incomes creep up, so does the cost of our lifestyle. Having the best engine, or even continually striving to better our engine is quickly becomes redundant. Therein lies the value of the metaphor, it binds the need to make a living with the rest of life.

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