The Five Secrets to Finding Work that Matters

Reading Time: 2 minutes and 47 seconds

career coaching, find work that matters, find work you love, enjoy work, escape from corporate hell

Do what matters

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Bored? Frustrated? Stuck in a rut? Work feel meaningless?

You probably spend at least 40% of your waking hours at work.

What would it be like if you really enjoyed that time, if it felt like you were doing something important and meaningful, something that mattered?

I spent a decade working as a forensic accountant.  I hate details and I’m not a big fan of numbers.

I didn’t see the point of what I was supposed to be doing – it felt pointless. I struggled to find any joy in my working day.

Suffice to say that 40% of my life was not ideal.

I put work in a painful box, and kept it away from the rest of my happy life.  I felt drained of my life force every day.

I felt trapped by my job – after all, I was objectively successful, relatively well paid and had the “security” of working for a big global company.  What right did I have to ask for more?

It was only when I talked to a good friend about her career that I started to think differently. She had a clear vision for her work – to improve society using smart, analytical business ideas.  She was completely passionate about her career, dripping with enthusiasm.

My friend did work that she believed made a difference in the world around her – it impacted the lives of others, and the community she lived in.  Whilst I could hardly get out of bed every day, she couldn’t wait to get to work.

I realised that it was possible to enjoy making a living. To find work that felt meaningful.  To make a difference in the world.

This spark inspired me to start my own journey to doing work that matters.  It has been a long road and not always smooth sailing.

Now I help others who wish to find work that matters and I love my work every day.

In talking with hundreds of people who have felt stuck in a career rut and made radical changes in their work lives, I’ve found some five striking reasons to find work that matters:

1 IdentityYou are what you do.”

Work is a key component of our identity. Our work helps to define our place in the world.

When you meet someone new, one of the first questions you’ll inevitably be asked is “what do you do for a living?”

Answering that question helps to tell your personal story, the way that others perceive you.

Work helps you to express your individuality and express yourself.

If you love your work, it aligns with your values and who you are a person.

2. Quality of Life. “Work takes up 40% or (much) more of your life”

Given this, work has a huge impact on your happiness and quality of life.

Work can be hugely energizing and bring us a great deal of challenge and joy.  It can also suck the life force from us and leave us devoid of the energy to do more than lift the remote control.

Finding work that works for you can change your whole life.

3. Personal Development. “Work pushes you to grow”

The work we do is one of the main ways that we interact with the world around us.

You can take on new challenges, learn new ideas or skills and develop your ability to interact with others.

You can work with different people who can teach, inspire and challenge you to be the best you can.

The right work stretches you, dares you to be better.

Work allows us you to develop as a person and find out more about the world that we live in.

4. Purpose.What were you put on earth to do?”

The work that we do can help us to answer some of those bigger questions in life.

I often hear someone saying that they want to  “do something meaningful”, “something that makes a difference to people” or “makes a difference in the world”.

When we find work that we love, it is sometimes called finding our vocation, or “doing what we were put on earth for”.

Finding work we love helps us to make sense of our existence and find meaning in life.

5. Making a Living.If you have to work, why not do something that matters?”

Like it or not, most of us need to work to make a living.

We need to make money in order to create the life we’d like to live.  Receiving financial reward for what we do enables this to happen.

As we need to work, why not try to do something that we enjoy and that motivates us?

I’ve met too many people who put life on hold for that well paying job they hate, yet the idea of sticking that out for another 20 years is killing them.

These powerful reasons tell me that doing work that matters is vital to living life to the full.  I’ve learned my lesson here, now its..

Over to you

Please share your thoughts on work:

  • Why do you go to work?
  • How important is to do work that matters for you?
  • How have you found work that you enjoy?
  • What is stopping you from finding work that you love?

Answers on a postcard – or better still, leave a comment.

If you’d like to explore finding work that matters, take a look at my career coaching services. If you’d like to find out more drop me an email to phil@lessordinaryliving.com and we can find a time to chat.

Photo Credit: Tinyfroglet (Flickr Creative Commons)

How to stop holding yourself back and make it happen

Reading time: 2 minutes 43 seconds

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“You’re not good enough”

career coaching, career counseling, dream job, job you love

Gremlin!

“You should keep quiet”

“What a stupid thing to say, you idiot”

“You can’t do that”

That voice in our head has a spectacular talent for running us down.

Our gremlins cast judgment (usually negative) on the past, influence what we do (or don’t do) in the present, and poor cold water over future plans. The have a huge impact on the quality of life we lead.

Dealing with our gremlins is a vital part of any Mental Spring Cleaning.

A friend of mine was telling me about their inability to ask for a promotion at work.

She felt she was totally outperforming their peers, had great feedback from her line manager and had surpassed every goal she had set.  Yet when it came to pulling the trigger and asking, a voice in her head kicked in saying “who are you to ask for a promotion – you don’t deserve it”.

My friend described feeling paralyzed by the strength of this thought and found an excuse to run away without broaching the subject.  Afterwards, she was furious with herself for “bottling it”.

We tried to figure out how this gremlin came about in the first place. Gremlins almost always come from childhood experiences where we create defence mechanisms to protect ourselves.

My friend recalled asking a teacher in primary school for permission to join the school choir and being told “No – you haven’t worked hard enough on your singing”.  Even now she recalled the sick feeling in her stomach that day.

Her gremlin formed to protect her from that feeling, and since then she has always struggled to ask others, particularly in authority for what she wants. On reflection, she recalled many times when she held back from asking for something and told herself “you don’t deserve this”.

Creating these protection mechanisms takes a lot of hard work. We use a lot of mental bandwidth once the emergency red light comes on and a gremlin kicks in.  My friend felt exhausted for the rest of the day – probably because she had used her adrenaline rush for flight rather than fight.

Many of our gremlins are no longer useful to us in adult life. My friend’s gremlin worked well when she was a little girl, but now it was a serious pain in her backside, holding her back from being successful.

6 Steps to bust that gremlin!

If you have a voice in your head that is holding you back, this is a powerful technique to move on. I used it with my friend and it has helped countless coaching clients:

  1. Identify the gremlin you face (how does it manifest and what does it say to you) and give it a name
  2. Understand the gremlin’s purpose and history. Think back through your past to the first time the gremlin appeared.  What was its’ purpose back then (usually protecting you in some way).
  3. Acknowledge the gremlin and thank it for helping out.  Let the gremlin know that it is no longer needed for this purpose.  Tell yourself that you can handle things from now on.
  4. Identify your new approach – how would you like to act differently in the next situation where the gremlin might arise (e.g. for my friend she would like to confidently ask for what she wants)
  5. Ask the gremlin to help out – the gremlin can provide a lot of energy to the new approach.  Ask the gremlin to help you act differently next time.
  6. Set a goal – identify the first time that this energy can help you out and what outcome you’d like.  In my friend’s case she set the goal to go back to her boss and this time she asked for and got promoted.

Over to you

Answer the following questions:

  • What gremlins do you have?
  • When do they appear for you?
  • How do they hold you back?
  • Which gremlin would you like to change the most?

Try the gremlin buster and set yourself a goal.  Leave a comment on what you are hoping to change and email me if you’d like support in this Spring Cleaning activity.

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Photo Credit – Inti (Flickr Creative Commons)

Change your Story, Change your Life

Reading time – 3 minutes 22 seconds

Career coach, career counselling, change your career, find work you love

Change your story, Change you life

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What stories do you tell the world about yourself?  If you changed it how would your life change?

What is a story and how can it make a difference?  Here is a life-story in 87 words:

I was born in the north of England in the 1970s during a time of economic turmoil.  I never really felt comfortable or confident as a child, and I was bullied by the other kids in my neighbourhood.  At school, I did reasonably well, somewhere in the middle.  I stumbled my way into an ok university, again with average results.  When I graduated, through sheer desperation, I took a job with an accounting firm – certainly not what I was passionate about, but frankly about what I deserved.”

  • How do you respond to this story?
  • What sort of person do you think this is?
  • How do you think they feel?
  • How would you respond to this person if you met them?
  • What lasting impression would you have about them?

In less than 60 seconds, this story has set the foundation for how you relate to someone, and we all know that first impressions are hard to change.

This, of course, is my story. Or more importantly, one version of my story.

Everything in this story really did happen to me.  If someone asked me to “tell me about yourself” I could choose to tell this story.

Two truths about storytelling

Two things that happen when we tell stories:

1) We choose which “facts” to include in the story.

The building blocks of stories are experiences and memories, which we often think of as “facts”. When we tell the world our story, we have literally billions of these building blocks to choose from.  In my story I count somewhere in the region of 16 that I selected to let you know about me.

You may think that your story is your story – yet you choose the building blocks in every story you tell yourself or anyone else

2) We add our own editorial.

We choose how to present these “facts”.  We pick the tone and the editorial direction.

Clearly in my story, I’ve chosen to tell a hard luck story.  At every turn I am playing my little violin.

I was born in a time of economic turmoil” – really?  I was 1 year old at the time and my parents both had jobs.  Yet I chose to add this little zinger in.  I’m trying to make you feel sorry for me.

I never felt comfortable or confident.”  Find me anyone who can’t say something similar about parts of their childhood.

About what I deserved” – now I’m busy making judgements about myself.  I’m telling you that I’m not self-confident, that I feel pretty worthless and inviting you to feel the same way.

In storytelling, the narrator chooses whether to create a hero, anti-hero or villain.  We have the choice on HOW to tell the story.

Our life is little more than the sum of all our experiences.  When we tell others about who we are, we tell them our story. We weave together some selective memories from the past, and bind them together with our interpretation of those “facts”.

Choice is good

The important thing is that we always have a choice when we tell any story.  We can pick the building blocks and we have a choice over the narrative glue we use to stick them together.

Once we become aware of what stories we tell and what impact that has on us and the world, we can start to tell stories that we love and stop telling stories that drag us down.

Here is my story again in 87 words:

I grew up in a happy home and went to a school that I loved.  I thrived and was able to study history at a great university, after travelling the world in my gap year.  I met and married my soul mate along the way.  I’ve been blessed to be able to travel and live in different cultures.  It took me a while to find what I love to do, however now I’ve found my vocation and am thriving by helping others live life to the full.”

Ask yourself the same questions about this person that you did about the first story.

When we change our story, we really can change our world.  We also change how the world around us responds.

Even writing the first story, I could feel myself getting drained of energy.  I literally slumped in my chair, and felt overcome by worry.

Writing the second story, I felt my energy growing.  I felt great about myself, clear and confident.

In my mental spring clean, I’m going to look at the stories I tell the world.  For each story, I’ll ask:

1) Choosing Facts

  • What facts did I choose to share?
  • Why did I choose these facts?
  • What other facts could I have chosen?

2) Narrative / editorial

  • What kind of story am I try to tell?
  • What is this story telling the outside world about me?
  • What is this story telling me about me?

3) Alternatives / changing the story

  • What do I really want to tell the world?
  • What other stories could I tell that would serve me better?

If you are taking part in spring-cleaning your mind, ask yourself the same questions.

Good stories to look at include

  • How you introduce yourself at a work or networking function
  • What stories you tell at a job interview
  • What stories you are telling on your resume
  • What stories you share with your friends
  • What stories you tell your family, what stories you tell your other half and if applicable children.

I know I’ve found some stories I love and others that need junking.

Try changing your story and see how your life changes.

Next time – we’ll look at the stories we tell ourselves.

Picture credit : Victoria Peckham (From Flickr Creative Commons)

How to Make a Living doing what you Love

Reading Time: 2 minutes 48 seconds

How to make a living from your passion

Do what you love?

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I’ve developed a sick fascination with the British TV show Masterchef.   In the show 156 aspiring amateur chefs compete for the title of “Masterchef”.  They cook for two judges, an angry bald man and an equally irate Aussie who critique their food and slowly kill their dreams, one by one.

The Impossible Dream

My fascination is not with the food (although the contestant who cooked a tinned peach and tomato bread pudding was pretty special).  It lies with the contestants.  In reality TV, the head-shot is a vital tool for every director.   This is where we hear the ambition, the motivation, the dream.  Here are a few from the series so far:

I do know what I want to do in life now, my passion is food.  My dream is to run a restaurant in the Scottish Highlands” Andrew (Property Developer)

I want my life to be completely about food.  I want to do it full time.” Kirstie (Real Estate Broker)

I’m very passionate about food – its been a hobby up until know and Masterchef will allow me to move it forward” Peter (Police Officer)

I love cooking and to do that for a living would be a dream.  Masterchef means everything to me” Kerry (Full-time Mum)

Almost every contestant is hoping to make a living from cooking.  I love their passion for food and their huge dreams.  They put their heart and soul into this competition.  Yet at every turn, these lifelong ambitions are crushed.  Only one can be crowned Masterchef.

That Makes Me Mad

The show makes me angry.  When I hear contestant after contestant laying out their dream for a career in cooking I seethe.  “What’s stopping you?” I scream at the screen.  “Just go and do it”.

9 ways to explore your Passion

There are many ways to start making a living doing what you love.  I don’t think that entering a competition with a 1 in 156 chance of winning and no guarantees of success at the end is the best way.

So how could these contestants go about making a living from their passion?  The answer is one step at a time:

  1. Do what you love – a lot. Cook, cook, cook for anyone and everyone.  Practice the skill you want to make a living from as much as possible
  2. Develop your skills. Go to cookery school.  Learn the basic techniques and advanced skills.  Hone your style, and practice some more.
  3. Join groups that share your passion. Find others who love food and build networks with them.
  4. Interview people who already make a living from your passion. Start talking to restaurant owners and chefs.  Learn about the profession from those already in it.  Understand what you are committing to.
  5. Get experience. Look for an opportunity to cook in a professional kitchen.  Volunteer to clean dishes for free.  Be a sous chef and chop onions all day.  Get into the lion’s den to see what life is really like.
  6. Establish your expertise. Blog about food – share your passion with the world and get a following
  7. Take small steps to make money. Write a cookbook and sell it online – find a way to make a small living in a risk free way from food
  8. Write a business plan – look at the financial realities of being a cook or owning a restaurant and see how that fits with your other values in life.  Get experts and your network to review the plan.
  9. Start increasing your commitment. Set up a street stand to sell food, or take a part-time job in a kitchen

None of these actions are too difficult in themselves, yet combined they will help to live the passion.  Following these steps would allow the contestants to test out if this really is the dream they were looking for, and build the skills and experience to succeed.

If you are ready in making a doing what you love, think about how these steps might work for you.  You can start taking action to explore the possibilities and start making the dream a reality.

What is your passion in life?  What would it mean to make a living from it?  What advice can you share on making this happen?  Please share your thoughts with the LoL Community.  Thank you.

Picture credit : Tracy Hunter (Flickr Creative Commons)

Get off the Hamster Wheel

Reading Time: 3 minutes and 12 seconds

career coaching, career choice, make an impact

Get off the Hamster Wheel

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Have you ever felt like you’re stuck on the hamster wheel – running as fact as you can and going nowhere?

Life can be seen as the sum total of all the choices we’ve ever made.  Every day we’re faced with hundreds of decisions – some inconsequential such as which brand of toothpaste to buy, some very important such as choosing a new career direction.

It is what it is….

Many people believe that our life is determined by fate and that there is no way to influence what happens to us.   This theory suggests that we have no choice in any events in our life.  Living by this philosophy can lead to giving up on life.  In this world, our life is little more than a piece of driftwood floating on the stream of fate.

The Smarter Choice

The alternative mindset is that we live in a world full of choices.   From this view point, the world fills with possibility.  In a given situation we face a huge range of options. If you are in a meeting with your boss, you could choose to answer her questions earnestly and to the best of your ability, you could choose to be challenging and stand up for your views, or you could choose to run out of the door screaming and never come back.   Each choice has potential consequences and inevitably some consequences may appear preferable to others.  However, we have the power to choose.

The Hamster Wheel

Even if we believe in choices, it is easy to close ourselves down to our options.  We can get into a routine or a rut.  Life becomes about survival.  Welcome to The Hamster Wheel.

Getting off the Hamster Wheel can give us tremendous energy and power.  It allows you to feel in control of a given situation.

Choose Life

Over time and through self-reflection we can learn to slow down and see the bigger picture.  Once we realise we have options, life stops being about survival and starts to become about possibilities.  We step off the hamster wheel.

When we are making deliberate choices it becomes easier to take responsibility for our actions.  When we choose and commit to our actions we can own the results regardless of the apparent level of success.   We make choices, we commit to them, we accept the results and we grow as a person.

Exercise – Getting off the Hamster Wheel

This exercise is a quick way to get off the hamster wheel and learn to see all the options.  You can work through it in advance to plan your biggest decisions by doing it every morning.  This also works in the moment when you feel stuck on the hamster wheel.  Asking these questions opens us up to the reality that we do face options.

  • What is the challenge that I face today / am facing right now?
  • What are my options?
  • What other choices could I make (regardless of how feasible they may be)?
  • What could I do if I had no fear?
  • Which choices best align with my values and who I am as a person?
  • What support can I get in taking this choice with power and committing to it?

Getting off the hamster wheel and choosing life is a tremendously powerful approach to life.   Try it today and see what happens.

Picture credit – Sebastien Davies (from Flickr – Creative Commons)