Originally published on LinkedIn – to comment follow the link. Follow Tom for more great career advice!
I come across a lot of people that are frustrated. Annoyed. Disengaged. Not challenged. Bored.
The list goes on. But we have commitments, there’s a reality to our financial circumstances.
A common theme is balancing passion for what you are doing with the money you get. Realistically, any human being would change their life in a second if they could focus on something they enjoy and feel energised about and at the same time able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle (i.e. earn enough).
There are the select few who are a bit different however, they are driven by the never-ending pursuit of money, title and grandeur. Egocentrics? Megalomaniacs? Dr Evil? The “look at me, look at me” personalities? The people who feel they are better than the rest or have a point to prove? Whatever, they’re not important.
If you remove yourself far enough from the face of the planet earth, we are all just microdots on a small blue dot in a very, very large expanse of space and time. Not really sure how far the next dot goes, but it fascinates me!
Another extreme would be taking Agent Smith’s perspective from the movie “The Matrix” – humanity is a disease, a virus just spreading itself endlessly and killing its environment in the process…but that’s a discussion for another time (but does pose the question we all face at some point, the “so what”).
Back to the issue – what do you do, what can you do, when you don’t like your job or you’re wondering if the grass is greener somewhere else, but the money is good? And if we are facing an impending recession then how green is that grass on the other side? Are you better to invest your energies in securing yourself where you are or take a punt elsewhere? Funnily enough, both at times seem like a function of the amount of fertiliser there is.
What can you do? A lot – and at the same time, not much. Confused?
The reality is you are making a decision to restrict yourself based on the golden handcuffs you have. In truth, we live in a consumerist world with financial commitments. You may have forked out over and above for that awesome property and now look back on it thinking that the 30-year loan you’ve taken on actually takes you close to or even past retirement, so how does that work? Surely you’ll be able to sell before then, right?
You are hamstrung and feeling stuck by the impacts of the potential scenarios coming from the various decisions you could make. Choices, choices. Detach yourself from yourself and see that if you were someone else giving yourself advice, what would it be? We all have choices. It’s just unfortunate that those choices have consequences. Some of them are great, some of them suck.
Some you’d be happy with, some your partner, wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, pet, mother, father etc would think you have lost the plot, are in a mid-life crisis or simply not following the rules of normal society. Remember the movie American Dream?
So what can you do? Take control – of yourself.
The worst is the feeling of being lost, hamstrung and not knowing where to. The feeling of being stuck. And playing Lotto seems like an increasingly appealing option (forget the fact that statistically investing that money over time is more likely to give you a better return).
Here is a graphical interpretation of your magical circle of impact:
Your action plan to get to the greener grass
So if you are feeling stuck and open to ideas on how to get unstuck, here is an approach you can use to kick start your life and career back to where you want it to be.
- track your sources of energy and your sources of pain
- identify the pattern for what’s happening and when
- link it down to your core values, what makes you, you
- change the habit and focus on what you can control
- put in place your plan of attack and take action!
Step 1 – Knowing the source of your energy
Simplify your thinking back to where your energy comes from, what brings you joy, the moments you feel happiness and where you invest more of yourself than may be expected because….well….you just want to.
Write down your top three to five things that bring you joy. Naturally, it will span both career and life aspects and I’m not meaning any airy-fairy stuff, but actual specifics that you can relate to and puts a smile on your face.
It may be worth keeping a gratitude journal or a notepad where you keep a track of key moments in your day that you remember. Either do it throughout the day or at the end of the day. Once a week could work, but it’s sometimes hard to remember so long after a long day and/or week.
It is important to also reflect on where your pain points are – what are the things happening that are bringing you pain? By having awareness of this also, you can be clear on what is high value (happiness) and low value (disengagement) use of your time in terms of both your growth, career development as well as what makes you have a sense of achievement throughout the day.
There are even a range of mobile apps you can download for this very purpose now which make tracking this very easy and in the moment. Great for the ‘paperlight’ at heart (like myself).
Step 2 – Identify the pattern
This isn’t just watching out for what similar ‘stuff’ you are doing and writing down over time, but taking proper time to deeply reflect on what are the habits you are displaying leading up to what you were doing / wrote down. This is really important.
You may find that the best way to approach goal setting is to not focus on the goal per se, but to focus on the habit that delivers the goal. If you want to lose weight, don’t focus on the outcome of losing say 5kg (albeit it is good to know your end game), focus on the habit of exercising 3 days per week instead. Form the habit. In this way you are more likely to avoid disappointment if reaching that outcome/metric/target takes longer or is slightly different (if you lost 4.5kg rather than 5kg, were you unsuccessful?).
So, break down your analysis into insights around what are the things you are or aren’t doing that is leading to this situation. Personally, I’ve found this to be really impactful. You may need to give yourself a period of time to get a good trend, but it works.
As Yoda would say….patience my young padawan…
Step 3 – Your values linked to your behaviour
Each pattern or habit realistically stems from an underlying value you have….or perhaps don’t have. Self awareness here is the key to unlocking your roadblock and in shaping clarity for yourself of what will propel you forward.
An amazing book that I read called “Playing the Matrix” by Mike Dooley surmised that essentially, human behaviour these days is pretty stupid (my interpretation). We focus too much on specific goals and outcomes and therefore forever run the risk of being disappointed (case in point the weight target noted above). Why? Because our ability to control that outcome is limited. We can influence actions to get there but the only thing we can really control is how we feel, our thoughts and through that our actions. Hence, understand where your values align to what brings you happiness and a sense of achievement. What are the behaviours you display (or don’t) through that that therefore drive the habits you show?
Step 4 – Change the habit
Now that you have this noted down, summarise those habits that are or would be positive impacts on your life – are you doing them now or need to start? You may have used the Stop, Start, Continue approach which is a simple way to think through this as well:
- Stop – what habits do you need to stop to feel happier?
- Start – what habits are you not doing now that you need to kick off to feel happier?
- Continue – what habits are you currently doing you should definitely keep doing to maintain happiness?
For example, your habit may be exercising three times per week, spending half a day a week with a business partner to immerse yourself in the business, allocating time each week devoted to creative work (you know, to balance all the other transactional crap you have to do).
And this is where the beauty starts because you can really make some simple inroads with this. Easiest way to tackle this? Talk to people. Speak to your business partners, your team, peers, family, etc and ask them. You can use the Stop/Start/Continue approach if you like or simply just ask what are they not getting now that, if they had it, would make their life better that you could impact?
Note that word impact.
And this is where you have to remember the circle of control and the circle of influence. Some things you can control, other things you can only influence. Invest your energies in things you can control and influence in those areas that are directly correlated to delivering that.
Step 5 – Plan of attack
All this is well and good if you do nothing about it. You need a hook. Some people prefer the self-guilt approach. Others prefer the self-reward approach. It doesn’t matter, what matters is you do something and do something now.
You can develop a rough roadmap for yourself that outlines your pain, your prize and your pathway of how to move forward with a focus on investing your time in things that motivate you and align to the habits that support that.
For example, you may want to spend less time devoted to transactional work and spend more time with a stakeholder understanding what is going on in the business, or spend more time devoted to developing and coaching your people as a leader. What are the key things you can focus on in each area and what habits can you instil to make this happen? Break it down into manageable chunks for yourself and think about your calendar. Your biggest roadblocks will be your time and….yourself.
Being disciplined in where you spend your time is important.
At which point you may be asking, what does this have to do with the fact I don’t really feel that engaged with my job anymore but the money is good? Well realistically there is always something you can control and change in your current role or organisation. The thing is to take some time out to think through the above and how this could play out in your current role.
Remember – what can you control versus what can you influence?
Start small and build from there.
Worst case is that going through the above steps will provide some short term focus for you to realign your priorities, mindset and keep yourself engaged. On the other side of the coin, it will give you good insight on what you love doing and what you don’t and whether where you are now really is the drudgery of life your mind is making you feel or if its just your own personal lack of clarity.
And remember, you have the choice. It’s just that the choices you have lead to consequences.
Here are three example choices for you…
The “whatever, I don’t care“ approach – you do nothing and will continue to feel crap, not be at your best and grow increasingly disenchanted and depressed. You end up not being yourself anymore, lose interest in things around you and likely family and friends will think you’re going through a mid life crisis. Cue sportscar.
The “stuff this, I’m looking for a new job“ approach – its always good to see if the grass is greener, but remember, normally someone in your current organisation will need to be your reference so how are you showing, at least behaviourally, that you are putting your best foot forward? And are you selling yourself short by not investigating the opportunity where you currently are (remember your learning curve is normally much easier where you are v where you could be).
The “I need some time out to think and am going on a holiday” approach – probably the best option. Provides you with distances to reframe, thinking time to reflect and realign yourself. The important thing here is not a holiday where you go and just do nothing. I mean a break where you do take some time away to not think about work, but then set aside time to reflect and think through who you are, what you want and don’t want and put in place your action plan to be the new you.
So do you stay or do you go?
The best thing? The better of yourself is waiting for you.
As the saying goes “the grass is greener where you water it”…
…and its time to grab hold of the garden hose!
A summary of the approach….
Can we send you an email?
Join more than 7,000 other smart finance professionals by signing up to our newsletter. You'll get a monthly email with new blog posts, job news, views, and insider tips. Don’t miss out on this valuable advice!