Author: AMAXRA Consultant Karen Desko
It used to mean getting out of bed in time to drag a comb across your head, grab a donut with your coffee, and slide into your cubicle before the boss realizes you are late and wearing the same clothes you had on yesterday. But those days of dancing until dawn and working for the man are long gone. You are all grown up now and work means so much more than funding your fun. You still have to pay the bills but you can do so much more – including having fun.
The world of work has evolved and changed. Your ability to adapt to those changes can mean the difference between enduring a necessary evil and experiencing a never ending adventure. This isn’t about choosing whether you are working to live or living to work. You need to shift your perspective about what work means to you and sincerely believe in your willingness and ability to design a way to work that truly works for you.
Assigning meaning to work is a personal matter; so much of it depends on individual needs, drives, values, motivators, talents and beliefs. It begins with thinking about why you work. Some of this has to do with your views on money – do you have a high need for financial security and a low tolerance for risk? Or are you okay as long as you have a toothbrush and a futon at the end of the day? This doesn’t mean you have a scarcity versus abundance view, it just means you need to know what your needs are so you can get them met, whatever they are.
And speaking of planning – do you like to chart your course in advance, or do you view life as a river to ride that has unseen and never anticipated turns and twists? And what do you think about time? Is it in limitless supply to you now or do you see those grains of sand dropping through the hourglass at a somewhat surprising rate? Knowing your need for details, deadlines and control will help you make career plans that fit you.
Now your values and beliefs enter into the equation. If you know what is important to you and are certain about which things you value over others, then it is easier to recognize the jobs that suit you and let go of the ones that don’t. This enables you to be happy with the choices make. It prevents you from constantly looking at what others have and wanting something different – because you know you have what you want right now.
The biggest mistake most people make about work is choosing money over values. If you want to be outside and work in nature, then being a Park Ranger is the best place for you no matter how much a Wall Street stock broker makes – because you don’t want to be a trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. But if making the most money is vital because financial security is a core value for you, then you want to find things to love in high stakes and high paying jobs. The key is to experiment early, try things on, and have a plan so you can do work that feeds not only your bank account, but also your soul.
Most people who love what they do have found ways to work at things they are naturally good at and simply enjoy doing. Their vocation isn’t different from their avocation, and they have figured out that what you do for pleasure doesn’t have to be the opposite of what you do for business. Some people call this swimming in your lane- know what you are good at and find ways to do that. No matter what your mother tells you about wishing she had a dentist in the family.
If dancing until dawn and not having to get up early to ‘go to work’ is your dream, then maybe your dream job is to be a dance instructor or own a dance studio or work on a cruise ship. The key is to not limit yourself, especially early in career. If you aren’t sure what you want to be when you grow up then early career is the time to try on a lot of different things to help you get clear. Think you might like teaching? Don’t pursue a Master’s in Education, go teach for a year with the Peace Corps – the experience will enrich your life and you will know with certainty if teaching is for you.
And if you change your mind mid-career, the key is to make the shift in ways that keep you secure. If 20 years into a career in Accounting, you have been watching Top Chef and think you are really a restaurateur at heart who should run the best gourmet coffee shop in Seattle, then by all means check out if this is your true passion. But don’t do it by chucking your accounting position and paying $15,000 for a degree in Culinary Arts. Instead, find a coffee shop you like and work part time. You will find out for sure if you are destined to be the next Caffeine King or Queen and can build your dream from there.
So showing up for work is so much more than having eaten a nutritious breakfast and wearing the right clothes. You need to be in the right space; mentally, figuratively and literally. Pablo Picasso said, ‘The meaning of life is finding your gift and the purpose of life is giving it away.” So go figure out what your gift is. Discover what you love to do and then find ways to do it. Don’t worry about the money- it will come when you find your thing. Once you do this, then showing up for work is easy, because you are doing what you love and it doesn’t feel like work.
Like the idea but think it sounds scary or hard?
Learn more from six role models who are loving work and life here.
About the author: Karen is a certified instructor, executive coach, and experienced facilitator whose clients have included Microsoft, Boeing, the International Labor Organization (UN) and other organizations in the public and private sectors. She is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC), a Member of the Coaching Training Institute’s Faculty of Organizational Coaching, and a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF). She has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia, and has completed all coursework for her Master’s in Counseling from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
& Watch this video by Alan Watts- What if money didn’t matter
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