Have you ever asked yourself the question why you go to work? Like, sat down & just asked yourself what the *** you are doing? I have. I wanted to briefly talk about the journey I’ve been on over the last six months where I’ve very much nearly become part of the great resignation & what I learnt whilst going on that journey. Maybe some of this will resonate with you. If you’ve found yourself in a slump or thinking **** it, or even thinking you’re going to try & leverage the post COVID human-labour-market going ****** crazy, then this post is for you.
The four reasons why we work
There are typically four reasons why you’d go to work;
A – Financial security – we all need cash money right? Unless you’re an Oligarch or your names Elon Musk, you probably need to go to work to pay the bills, put food on the table, take care of those you love. This applies to the large majority of people.
B – Connection – We are innately social creatures, & we need others to thrive, often we don’t even realise this. To many, work is a way of belonging & having a purpose & reason to get up in the morning. That’s why if you’ve ever been made redundant, it can often hurt so bad.
C – Personal Growth – Although there’s a debate on actual causes, there is a behavioural, cognitive developmental & constructivist interpretation in that we all inherently have an innate drive to learn. We also want to apply our skills & become the best at what we do.
D – Contributing to a bigger goal
Although we go to work often for the other things listed above, work is not only about ourselves. We all have a need to transcend our own goals & often we want to contribute to some bigger picture. Often the case why people want to be Nurses, Doctors, Emergency service personnel, Police officers etc etc
I’ve learnt the trick to job satisfaction is finding where you can strike the balance between all the above. If you can do that, you’ll be winning. And spoiler alert, it all doesn’t have to come from your job for you to be nourished & satisfied!
Work is often so intrinsic to our happiness; it certainly is for me. I am what I do. I’ve always been wired that way. Not having the most straight-forward childhood has meant that I knew I’d have to work hard to get anywhere. Work has always been my priority. In fact, so much so I make it quite clear my work & career come before my family – the reason being if I’m not happy, I’m useless as a human. So then when work is not going the way I want, then I hurt bad. As I’ve grown my career & my capability in regard to what I do, so has my expectation not only of myself but of those around me, including the organisations I work for. In the past, if I didn’t like something, or it wasn’t the way I wanted to do it, I’d often avoid riding out the issue & learning how to be pragmatic, or compromising or any of the other things you learn to do with experience, …. I’d just simply….walk away. Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it only get’s you so far.
Of course, you get older wiser & more experienced, you realise these issues are everywhere & not isolated to one place of work. No matter where you work, it simply won’t be perfect. No amount of waxing lyrical on Linkedin is ever going to represent exactly how life will be at that organisation. In fact, when was the last time anything you did, experienced, or interacted with was totally perfect?
So as I continued to be a consultant, I got a secret sneak peak behind the scenes at some of the biggest companies in the world, across the world. I mean, this is a real privilege that I appreciate many don’t get. After a few years of seeing the biggest companies in pretty much every sector, & sometimes being involved in fixing some of their issues, I learnt very starkly that absolutely not only is nowhere perfect, many are making it up as they go along, just like the rest of us.
Don’t get me wrong here, some are doing way better than others, and some are really getting it wrong, but on average, most are swinging that needle into the ‘mostly ok, but need to improve’ category.
So why do I mention all that? Well, with age & wisdom, you start to look at yourself & that’s what I did. Holding up a mirror is tough & whilst I’m pretty good at assessing myself, I also know as you get better, the small bits become more difficult to deal with.
It’s no surprise to anyone I’m sure that I think a hell of a lot about myself, & whilst a few years ago I’d act as if I am the person now, but still had a lot of growing to do at the time I’ve now got to that level of performance & capability I’ve worked hard for. However, now where I look at how I can step up to being even better, its never anything obvious. Its never a ‘Mario you need to stop calling people a bunch of ****s’ or ‘starting your meeting with ‘listen here fuc**ers’ its now much more subtle & more difficult things to change.
What I’ve learnt
So I started to do a few things to help change my view of the world, the lense to with which I view the world, which directly corresponds to my happiness. If you want some further mind fodder for this, please listen to the Ted talk by Shaun Achor, the art of happiness but I decided I wanted to see what I could change/improve/enhance about me, before deciding truly if I was unhappy or whether I was being lazy. By the way, none of the below is particularly new to me, I’ve just done it more consistently. Maybe you do this naturally, bravo you, for me, it’s a journey.
Mindfulness – Every time I get frustrated or irritated, I remember how fortunate I am. I remember how fortunate I am economically & from a family, love & health perspective. I reflect on how difficult the world is for many & ask myself, ‘is what I’m getting stressed about worth it’
Being Kind – The biggest thing that’s directly improved my leadership quality’s is being far more kind than I’ve ever been. Understanding everyone’s on a different journey at a different pace, & where I can, & if I can, I will always offer my help. The feel good chemical release you get from doing this cannot be underestimated.
Being Grateful – Probably linked to being mindful, I constantly take pleasure from the small things I’m fortunate to have in life, recognizing many don’t, & do whatever I can where I can to bridge any gaps. Being able to get up, stretch, move, go to the gym, taste good food, hug my children, have a cold beer, its amazing when you stop & think how much you take all this for granted.
Choice analysis – Whenever I find myself in a situation where I would usually act binary & quickly, I now pause & give myself 24 hours to analyse before I act. I guess this is the equivalent of not drunk-texting your ex or resisting the urge to send that FCK YOU email to your boss. But whenever I’m thinking I’m going to react quickly, I just stop. I pause. I then come back to it 24 hours later – often usually with a much more pragmatic response.
Misery loves company removal – Massively guilty of this, being an over-bearing heart-on-my-sleeve chap that’s highly opinionated & often right (more on being right in a mo), I can sour a room just as much as I can energise one. Constantly souring situations or being around those who do, often gives you an artificial lense of the world around you. You lose a perspective on reality which you only get back by stepping away from literal negative energy.
Being right often doesn’t mean being right – I often even roll my own eyes at myself sometimes as very often, there’s nothing I say that isn’t pragmatic, balanced, or well, right. I’m the guy on an internet forum that wades in with one long, well-formed post & kills the thread dead. Often, even if I’m right, I’ve learnt to not be dogmatic or opinionated about it. Sometimes, shock horror, I even don’t give my opinion at-all.
Do your own thing – I put a reasonable amount of myself on the internet, I do have an opinion, I do like the attention & as much as I get a kick out of inspiring people & teams, I also have learnt to be comfortable that not everyone is going to like me, & that doesn’t make them a ****. Being comfortable with your own self, its priceless. Haters gonna hate right?
So after self-reflection & learning that not every issue is mine to fight, I decided the best way to grow is to more consistently execute those things above. I still carry a highly binary moral & ethical contract, holding people, teams & organisations to the standards to with which I hold myself, but, I’ve learnt to recognise not only am I not perfect, neither is the world. Finding a way to be comfortable with what you have & growing slowly, is better than lillipadding into the unknown. Only if you’ve done all the above, & only then, you then probably should think ***** it, & move on
Take care for now