The problem is not with working too much. It never has been!
The problem is in the type of work that you do and how you feel about it. It is in the people you work for or with. It is in the nature of the actual work. It is in the measure of purpose and fulfillment and meaning that you find in your precious hours.
Oh yes, feelings, the intangible energy in the air, the rhythms of your heart and the whispers of your inner voice. The feelings that change from calm and happy to a sudden state of anxiety as you enter an office, a cubicle, or a space that you’d rather never again see for all eternity. The feelings that beg you to stop when you keep doing and ignoring. Those feelings!
Yes, my dear friends, please tell your scientist-engineer-logical and “practical” brain that feelings matter just like they do in choosing a partner in life. In fact, your work is your ultimate partner in engaging the heart and mind so in the end, how you feel about your work matters a great deal.
Therefore, work is not the problem. Work can be the fountain of joy. Work can be the reason you wake up hours before dawn and the reason you turn down social events or other commitments or menial tasks so that you can focus and continue doing something that lights you up inside. Work can be your life’s purpose in movement and action. Work can quite simply be the most rewarding of all things that you do in life. Do not put down the idea of work but ask instead if the work that you are doing is still serving you well.
The work, not idleness, is the indispensable condition of happiness for every human being.
~ In “A Talk Among Leisured People” by Leo Tolstoy
A quick disclaimer that I am mad about Tolstoy and find his words and his writing nearly divine, but I also believe he was respected at large so he can be a credible source. If you won’t listen to me, take a chapter out of his book, no pun intended. How do you think genius comes to life? You may not think yourself a genius but won’t you at least give yourself a chance to find out for sure? You may find that you are not a genius but you are a brilliant artist, a remarkable musician, a fantastic coach, a phenomenal teacher, or a great writer. How many geniuses are born and die without ever lighting up our world with their exceptional gifts?
You may never know if you are exceptionally gifted or not but is it not a shame to leave such a thing to chance?
The last few weeks and months at Prolific Living “headquarters” have been nothing short of burning the midnight oil on both ends to pull together a project that is at the core of my passion since I quit my miserable job in May 2011: The Smart Exit Strategy course, which is opening for registration later this month and if you want the earliest dibs plus the FREE 14 Career Power Tips Series emails, be sure to sign up here!
And it is worth mentioning that I did not quit so that I teach others how to quit because this little loop has always bugged me a bit.
I quit so I could build a business with my own two hands and turn several passions into profits – from writing books to working as a life and business coach with clients, from creating online digital products to building programs, from creating a weekly podcast to writing content for other websites and blogs, to name a few. And every week and every month, the business thrives more and the income streams expand and I wake up to do what I love to do everyday.
And I am not extraordinarily blessed with a vision into the future. I have not trained to be a writer and never learned how to run a business until I started running one. If it happened to me, the stubborn ex-devoted-corporate-“star”-destined-for-executive-role-at-a-Fortune-100 company woman in her mid-to-late thirties with a fiscally conservative approach to money, then why in this world can this not happen to you?
Why then won’t you leave a miserable job?
I have asked this question several times on Facebook – care to join us on the career & work banter? – and have had a stream of answers. Most come back to money, as though there is only one way for us to make money in this world. Money, then, is holding you enslaved to something you hate. How ironic is that?
Don’t get me wrong. I love money and I’ve admitted it openly at least in here and here. I used to love my 6-figure income and yes, I did stay on the last few years just for the money, but now I know this: having a job actually limits your earning potential over a lifetime, not to mention that it leaves you at the mercy of someone else to decide whether you are still good enough to earn next month’s paycheck. How “secure” is that?
But let’s say you are happy doing what you are doing, then you are in the right place, you are thriving, and I will never advocate that self-employment is for everyone. Having a job can have tons of benefits…. so long as you are happy doing it! Once happiness and fulfillment take leave, you must take heed and pay close attention.
Because doing what you hate for the money will in time strip you of your health and happiness.
You may deny it – I did for a long time! – but it has a stronger pull and eventually, the darn thing wins! Logically speaking, your health will suffer soon and that tends to be crippling to a normal life.
When I worked my corporate tech support position, the most miserable of all miserable positions at my ex-employer, every day consisted of dealing with the most thankless and stressed customers who had decided to buy the brilliant products from our company. I remember clearly a number of young healthy employees suffered major health crisis and at least two died of a sudden heart-attack. Sure, you can blame anything for that, but we always wondered, “it couldn’t be the stupid job, could it? Nah…. definitely not!”
Still, did I leave that miserable position? Did it awaken me to the reality of my own situation? Did all the signs that showed up blatantly in my relationships, in my marriage, in my own health and my attitude, did they ever make me consider giving up what was then a less-than-lucrative salary? The answer is negative as yours truly made her share of stupid decisions day after day in that job. So you see, I don’t blame you. It is a trap that is impossibly hard to escape even though the door to freedom is wide open and possibilities beckon us everyday!!!
This morning, all of this became crystal clear when my friend Sid Savara shared this article. I was suffering from the same attachment to paycheck and conditioning that Daniel Gulati explains brilliantly in his Harvard Review: Why You Won’t Quit Your Job and you might be too. In other words, I was behaving like a lab rat. Are you?
I cannot repeat this enough, thank you Daniel for saying:
This strong human bias toward accumulating small wins is what we call progress, but paradoxically, it seems to be inhibiting many individuals from reaching their true potential.
Let me leave you with these 5 simple shifts in mindset if you are in an unhappy job:
FIRST: Refuse to do nothing and refuse to believe that you are trapped.
SECOND: Think about your strengths and how else you can put them to great use.
THIRD: Give yourself permission to think outside of the normal means of survival.
FOURTH: Put at least one idea to test if only to boost confidence about your capabilities to diversify your income.
FIFTH: Resist the temptation to repeat “at least” thoughts in your head and think instead “what if” thoughts.
And don’t forget to sign up for more 14 FREE Career Power Tips plus early notification later this week on the Smart Exit Blueprint course.
Thoughts? Questions? Vehement or friendly disagreements? Bring it on! I love it all and will reply to each in the comments below.