Rethink the Role of Work in Your Life

Why is everyone seemingly rethinking the role of work in our lives? The USA broke a record when 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September 2021. There are some theories as to why this Great Resignation occurred. I’d wager a guess that people figured out that if they don’t spend money, they don’t need to work. Seems obvious now that we’ve all had a chance to try that grand experiment in the midst of the pandemic.

People discovered that all that spending wasn’t making them happy and their jobs probably weren’t either. So, get rid of the two and you are a happy camper. If you add up the costs of childcare, keeping a second car so both parents can drive to work, and the costs of gas, work attire, and lunch, working can be pretty expensive. Clearly many have determined that the daily grind just isn’t worth it and have voted with their feet. More people are saying, “This isn’t worth it.” I’m thrilled as this means that there are 4.4 million people out there who may be looking for their ideal career to live a happier life.

I recently listened to an Ezra Klein podcast about the role of work. The point was made that historically we worked to put food on the table. A job was about earning an income. It is only very recently that we are seeking fulfilment in our careers. We want our work to fulfill our calling in life.

I was surprised to learn that the Millennials said that having a job you enjoy is more important than marriage, kids, or helping others. We now expect to find a career that isn’t just financially rewarding but also is fulfilling. Yet, the desire to find work that is fulfilling, challenging, and financially rewarding is relatively new thing. In the past, people did a job and didn’t expect to find much fulfilment in it. It was simply what you did to pay the bills and feed the family.

In part, life coaches may be to blame for this recent phenomenon (myself included) — for raising the bar on what’s possible in our work lives. I’ll admit that this is a privileged conversation. Those in developing countries may still be just looking for whatever work they can find. Enjoyment would be a rare bonus.

Could our expectations be the problem? Is it realistic to think that you can find a job that you love that also pays the bills? 

As countries develop and as technology frees people from routine work, the ability to be more creative in our careers becomes possible. My life coaching career is only 25 years old. One generation ago there was no such thing. I still remember my grandfather’s dismay and shock in 1997 when I gave up my prestigious banking career to become a life coach. It wasn’t until he saw me being interviewed on the Saturday morning show that he came around to the idea. Ha! Nothing like a bit of publicity to change the mind of a skeptic.

It is possible to find work that you enjoy, but perhaps not everyone will be so lucky. I’m very grateful to be one of the lucky ones and to be one of the first in a new field as well—double luck! What I can say? Hand on heart, the difference between working in a good job (my banking career) and working in an ideal career (life coaching) is night and day.

I used to hit the snooze button every morning, dreading going to work. I even had muscle spasms while walking to the bank—my body literally stopping me in my tracks. Yet I was successful in the eyes of the world. I received regular promotions about every two years. I was working my way up the corporate ladder, and I was miserable. I’d come home exhausted and have to take a nap on the sofa. It felt like a slog. I complained about my job every single day for over a year until my sister told me to “put up or shut up.” That’s when I realized I needed to make a change and discovered life coaching.

In contrast, I love coaching people. I do it all day and feel more energized at the end of the day than when I started. I love knowing that I’m helping people be happier, healthier and wealthier. It is incredibly rewarding work.

A few years after leaving the bank and starting my life coaching company, I bumped into the Highlands Ability Battery. It is an online computerized assessment that can tell you what your brain is naturally wired to do. Sure enough, management is on the bottom of my list of talents. Coaching and speaking are at the top. No wonder my banking career felt like hard work while my coaching career feels easy and fun. If you have a natural ability for something, it will feel fun and easy. If you don’t, it will feel like hard work. Obvious, but I didn’t know what my hidden talents were.

I think about all those people who slog it out, not knowing if there is something better they could be doing. The good news is that this is fixable. We have the tools to help you figure out your hidden talents, abilities and motivations.

The key to finding that ideal career is to make sure that it matches at least one of your top abilities. Ideally, it should also match your core values. The more our career is aligned with our values, the more motivated we will be to do it, even if it feels like hard work.

Your work should support your ideal life. Yet, here are all these folks giving work top priority. I hate to say it, but that’s the hard way. First, figure out what your ideal life looks like. Then find work that supports it. 

You can learn more about the Highlands Ability Battery and discover your core values in the Career Change Kit.

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