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)

Spring Clean your Mind

Reading time: 2 minutes and 49 seconds

Career coaching, career counseling, find work you love, do what you love

Spring Clean your Mind

A five part series to find clarity, focus and the energy to be your extraordinary.  Click here to subscribe and have every post delivered fresh to your inbox!

Spring is in the air!  Nature is waking up.  The earth is blooming with fresh buds, blossom on the trees, a whiff of hope in the air.

Spring is a time of renewal, new life, new possibilities, new hope, new beginnings, fresh thinking.  It’s a time to emerge from the shadows of hibernation, shake off the lethargy and face the future with joy.

An important tradition at this time of year is spring cleaning.  This is the ritual of cleaning house, sprucing up our dwelling, clearing away the clutter.  We cast off the baggage we’ve picked up over the winter.

This year, I’m planning to take the opportunity to spring clean my mind.  I want to sort through some of the dusty old boxes I’ve been storing in my mental attic.  I’m pretty sure that there are some hidden treasures I can polish up and enjoy.  I also know that there is a lot of junk up there that I no longer want to hump around with me.

My Mental Spring Clean will cover four areas:

Stories

We all spend a huge amount of time and energy creating stories about our identity.  We tell the outside world all about ourselves – what we do, our social status, how we interact with others, our expectations from the world around us.

We also tell ourselves stories about who we think we are.  I know that one story I was telling myself was that I had to do everything myself because there is no-one out there who would want to collaborate with me.  Since I recognized this story and started to change it, I’ve found that suddenly people are starting to want to get involved with my projects.  A simple change of story and led to a big difference.

Our stories are usually based on some simple facts, however we choose how to weave these facts together.  We also have the choice of which facts to select in creating the story.  Understanding the power of our personal narrative and how we communicate it can hugely change our lives for the better.  Change our story and we change our life.

Games

The psychiatrist Eric Byrne wrote the seminal book Games People Play in 1964.  He identified the human need for attention and the need to fill the unstructured void of time.  Byrne identified that human interaction is based on conversations and analyzed these transactions in more detail.

He found that almost everyone plays games to get attention from others.  Often we don’t realize what we are doing.  Some of the games Byrne talks about include “See what you made me do”, “Ain’t it awful”, “If it weren’t for them” and “Stupid”.  Any of these sound familiar to you?

I know that I’ve spent most of my life playing “Just good enough”.  In this game, I try just hard enough to get the result I want without standing out from the crowd by being the best.  It is a game to keep me safe from unwanted attention, yet it also stops me from taking risks, really going for it, or feeling fulfilled.

In this mental spring clean, we can assess the games we are playing, figure out which ones are helpful and which ones are holding us back.

Gremlins / The voice in my head

This one is an old chestnut.  I have that horrible voice in my head that tells me;  “you’re not good enough, you can’t do that”, “who would listen to someone like you anyway”, “get over yourself, you’re no-one”.

These gremlins are powerful forces.  Typically we created them in our childhood to protect us from a situation that would have been detrimental.  Perhaps to overcome a fear of being embarrassed, we created a gremlin that stopped us answering questions in class.  The gremlin was there to keep us safe.

Often, this voice in our head has long since stopped being useful.  It stops us from taking action and being our best self with the old warnings.  In this mental spring clean, we’ll look at how to gracefully retire some of these gremlins and free ourselves to be whatever we want to be.

Habits

As children, we sponge up huge amounts from the world around us.  We learn routines about how to live our lives.  We pick up habits about how to behave from our parents, peers and everyone we meet.

Habits can be extremely positive, like a regular exercise routine, the process we use to keep ourselves organised or taking 10 minutes each morning to plan our day.  They can also be unconstructive – procrastinating, avoiding using the telephone when we know we should, drinking to relieve stress.

To some extent, we are what we do, and these habits become a large part of our identity.  We can understand more about how habits form, identify which habits to change and apply some of the rules of change to create positive new habits.

Get Cleaning

This Mental Spring Clean will look at each area in more detail and give practical advice on how to change for the better.  I’m planning to use the journey to create a mind that feels shiny, fresh and new  – ready to face the renewal of spring.  Please join me and enjoy some mental sorting, dusting, cleaning and polishing.  Let the Mental Spring Clean begin.

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)