When you are seeking work that will be more fulfilling or imagining a whole life that will be more satisfying it is important to get clear on who you are. Without knowing who you are, how can you possibly design and build a career or life that will suit you better?
um yes, obviously. But sort of not.
A whole lot of lovely people I meet find it hard to answer gentle questions like: What are you good at? What do you enjoy? What matters to you?
When you’re after big change I know it’s tempting to leap right in! But taking just a little time to work out your own finer details is a worthwhile investment. It will help you choose a direction that is likely to be a really great fit.
Try taking notes in a journal [or in any basic book] on simple aspects of self. Prompts like this might help you along:
WHAT AM I GOOD AT?
+ What are my strengths? [If you’re having trouble, try this VIA Questionnaire.]
+ In your everyday life, when do you feel most yourself?
+ And in that everyday life, when are you at your best?
+ Consider the value that you offer the world.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY?
+ You wake up on a Saturday with nothing you have to do, how do you choose to spend your day?
+ You are given a year off work [with an amazing salary!] to do whatever you like. How do you choose to spend that time?
+ Which parts of your day do you most look forward to? What simple things in your day bring you the greatest joy?
WHAT MATTERS TO YOU?
+ Are there any situations that elicit [what feel like] extreme emotional responses in you?
+ What things are most important in your life? What do those things mean to you?
+ Do you ever notice certain words really resonating with you? What are they?
Take a step back and look at all this material. What does it tell you about yourself? What patterns do you see? What themes emerge?
And then ask yourself: how can I use this information to help me a forge a more satisfying future?
I asked a three year old recently: if you could have a dog or a cat as a friend, which would you choose? And without missing a beat she replied: a fish!
Clients often come to me when they’re considering options and are not sure which direction to choose. Often those choices appear in stark terms: I could do this or I could do that:
- I could stay in this paid job or I could go out and start my own creative business
- I could save money or I could go travelling
- I could be polite or I could tell them exactly what I think!
- I could stay in this safe relationship or I could leave and be happy
This dichotomised thinking tends to be pretty unhelpful and doesn’t leave much room for rewarding, nuanced living. While dramatic decisions can feel satisfying in the moment [I quit!], most folk find that long-term happiness is tricky to sustain in the extremes.
When clients come to me with a couple of severe and competing options, I suggest this: Find the And.
- How could you maintain a steady income and pursue your creativity?
- How could you save money and satisfy your need for adventure?
- How could you stay true to your value of politeness and have your needs met?
- How could you feel happy and safe?
If you’re struggling with a big decision, have a go at Finding the And.
Make sure to do the exercise when you’re feeling happy and relaxed [remember: experiences of positive emotions can expand your thought-action repertoire. Feeling good will enhance your creative thinking and promote your capacity to extend the self. Super!] Write your thoughts down because great ideas tend to have a way of rudely disappearing. And then just see what emerges!
You might open up a whole lot of options you have never even considered.
Are you unhappy at work? Lots of people are.
Some folk have the luxury of leaving jobs that don’t suit them but others [for whatever reason] aren’t able to. I get that.
What I don’t get is being unhappy in a job and not doing everything humanly possible to make it better.
So if you find yourself dreading Sunday evenings and your daily highlights are Coffee Break, Lunch and Home Time, why not try these ideas:
+ Stop Complaining
Whoa! Maybe you weren’t expecting that one.
Let me clarify: I am on your side. Definitely. And that’s why I’m telling you this: you think you’re keeping your work-hate a secret? You’re not. Everybody knows! The snail-pace drag to your desk each morning + the constant eye-rolls = dead giveaway. And that bad energy is making everyone avoid you. Which in turn, is making your work-life worse.
I suggest returning to what you really value. [I bet it isn’t: being the office grump. But maybe it is: kindness, creativity, being bold]. And commit to living those values out, even within the constraints of this job.
+ Think Bigger
Ok so you’re stuck here but that doesn’t mean you can’t expand your world, outside of the office:
- go to a talk;
- visit the School of Life;
- try a short course; or maybe even
- consider some online learning [like the free Open Yale Courses].
Feeding your brain and broadening your vision will connect you to something bigger than you. It will give you a greater sense of meaning and that will enhance your sense of well-being.
+ Take Responsibility
You have two options here: you can sit and whinge about how everything isn’t the way you want it to be. Or you can do something about it. Which do you choose?
[Let me give you a clue: feeling like you have some sort of say over your lived-experience is critical to an ongoing sense of well-being.]
Make a list of 10 things that could be improved and find ways to actually do them. Better still: align yourself with like-minded people and do it together. That way you’ll be forging positive connections and making positive change.
Feeling stuck in a miserable job feels rotten but doing everything you can to transform your experience will deliver better days [and might even turn out to be life altering].
If you’re aiming for big change but finding yourself really, seriously, depressingly stuck there is one, surefire way to get moving:
Set fire to the tightrope.
Find some way to put pressure on yourself, to act [before the rope burns through!]
Here are some examples:
- Quit your job before you find another one
- Email everyone you know to say that if you don’t finish the course by the end of the year you will donate $2000 to charity
- Tell your boss you’d like to present a series of talks to the group: starting this Monday.
- Book [and pay for] a one-person-trip to South America
- Cut up all your credit cards.
If you’re sitting there on the tightrope, too scared to go forward, there’s a possibility you could end up sitting there forever. Seriously: f-o-r-e-v-e-r.
Light a fire [what form would your fire take?] and see what happens!