7am. I wake. I find myself stumbling around for the Snooze button. I hesitate to open my eyes fully. And then I realise, it’s Monday. My head collapses back on the pillow willingly.

There’s always a point in our lives where we have felt that. We dread it. We mope about it. We complain about it. We over react when there’s cake in the office because it means I can stop work and enjoy some indulgent eating. And we jump for joy when we can get a three day weekend.

Previously, the motivation for work meant food available consistently on the table or new clothes to buy for that one time of the year. Your focus is your children. To have them grow up healthy and more educated than you. Because living enough was everything.

Then it progressed to you taking over your family’s business and keeping the family name and reputation in tact. You have seen and understand the tears and sweat of your parents’ hard work so you try to carry it on to make them proud. Working hard to sustain not only your family but providing an excess of space and money for them. Because living more comfortably meant a happier life.

Now, we have been swallowed by the luxury of excess and choices that we begin to question the work we have been told to take over. We realise that although we need to keep working hard to keep our luxuries in tact, we wonder if these items make us happy.

There’s a shift in focus. What is the meaning of my work? Where do I see myself going? Do I want maximum glamour to upkeep my life in this manner? Is it really worth it?

Six months ago, I was back from being gone from my home country for a long period of time. It was time to find a new job. Time to make a clear path of my work life was going to be. I was largely in a state of confusion and panic as I felt like my path was not where I wanted to go. And so it began. Reading articles ranging from How to Find Fulfilling Work to tracing every career step of my favourite designers, to collecting numerous quotes and phrases that helped spur me in my quest to find my way, I’ve decided to list a few of the advice I’ve followed and my conclusions from this period of a somewhat non sequitur journey.

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ANSWER YOUR OWN QUESTIONS

This required me to sit down and write down all the answers to questions like If I could do anything in the world, without the need to worry about money, what would that be?, I can honestly tell you that I would still hit a brick wall. Even the phrase Write your own job description lead me to probably the most vague answer and more despondent feelings thereafter. After a while, I scratched this off my list.

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WATCHING VIDEOS

I had a period where I just dived into TED talk after TED talk after more youtube videos of inspirational clips like Alan Watt’s narration of his own thoughts on What if Money Didn’t Matter. It provided the right kick to my brain. I felt motivated. I felt like I had to do something great. I felt like no negative comment can push this dream down. But that moment popped when I realised that I didn’t know what my dream was.

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PICKING JOBS THAT SOUND GOOD

Then, I hit a lull in this period of constant searching. I was at a point of almost giving up. After much nagging and doubtful criticism from family and friends, I began searching for jobs that were clearly out of my interest. It just sounded good. Of course, no one returned with a response. I just merely felt even more deflated knowing that I could not fit anywhere.

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APPLYING FOR ONES I NEVER THOUGHT I’D DO

Writing. The one area that I felt, and still feel, shy about even though you, the reader, might never meet me. One the main reasons was really to occupy my time. To keep myself moving even though job-wise, I was collapsing into a pile of dust with still no clue where the wind will blow.

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QUESTIONING WITH THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

After some time of being muddled by my own questions of limitless possible answers, I decided to phrase questions that I do know the answers of. What work environment would I like to be a part of? What type of people would I want to work with? What can I learn from this job? Does this job allow me to grow? Those questions were immediately known to me. Since I can’t quite decide where I want to go, only knowing where I don’t want to go, I’ll focus on laying out my own ground rules for working at a certain place.

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DECLUTTER YOUR HOME

It sounds like there is no correlation right? But in actual fact, it has been the key part of my life in helping me in moving towards a direction. It started with theminimalists’ essay on why one of them quit his six figure corporate job to pursue his passions. The philosophy of Minimalism is simple, it is to live with enough. I am still in the process of removing any distractions and unnecessary possessions. The act of getting rid/recycling my items gave me a clear space to focus on more important things like writing, having long phone conversation with friends and producing random creative work. Though the answer to my career has not been answered, it boosted the productivity in my personal life.


It has been quite a journey. One of soul searching, spiritual finding, the need to run away feelings, and happy accidents. It was a lot of refocusing and despite how some of these processes may look like they have failed to direct me, it was really the non-stop asking, emailing others to ask even more, reading, looking, listening, questioning that has led me to where I am today – a contented person and a growing designer & writer.

Feel free to share your own experience of figuring out the meaning in your work and waking up in the morning without feeling the need to press the snooze button 20 times.

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Cleo Ngiam

Graphic & Web Designer at Melewi
Cleo Ngiam is a writer, designer, simple cooking enthusiast, and a travelling junkie.
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