The path to Joyful work is not easy but may be the most important thing you do in your life. When your work is enjoyable and aligns with your deepest core values, all internal indicators increase such as happiness, energy, sense of meaning in one’s life and the quality of life and relationships.
This is the meaning of an authentic life!
I have developed a model which is a combination of three other models that I developed which together if followed step by step can produce joyful work. Let the journey begin!
The Five Stages
What Stage of Life Are You at With Your Work?
Take a piece of paper and answer these questions for yourself to assess which stage you might be at in your life as a step towards more joy in your own work!
Stage 1: The experience of “Treadmill” of Life and Work
A treadmill can be useful for getting into shape. But over time it can become dull and routine. Work is like this for many people.
Can you think of a time when you felt like you were on a treadmill in your life and work?
What did that feel like?
How did you know that you were on a treadmill?
How did this treadmill affect your life and your relationships?
Stage 2: Internal and External Triggers Pushed the Need for Change
Which triggers have occurred for you in your life which gave you pause and the reason to step back and question your life and your work?
Where these events initiated by you or by other external factors?
What action did you take after the trigger event?
What could have you done?
What can you do now?
Stage 3: Time for Reflection
Have you taken the time after a trigger event to reflect on your life and work?
What process for reflection did you use?
If you did not take the time to reflect, what steps could you take now?
What new possibilities might occur if you took the time to self-reflect?
Stage 4: Change was Difficult
What would be difficult for you now if you decided to change your work in a big way to seek more joy?
What would this change look like?
How would this change affect your financial state?
What adjustments could you make in your financial state, your relationships, your lifestyle to make this change work?
What would be the overall impact to the quality of your life now if you made big change in your life and work?
Stage 5: A New Beginning
What would a new beginning look like for you?
Can you describe how this would make you feel and why?
How would a new beginning benefit you now and those around you?
What are the major three lessons you learned from this exercise?
Think deeply now about your life and work and how you can move towards what YOU want in your life NOW.
Stage 3 as a bridge to reflection
Stage 3 reflection can take a day, a month, or even a year. Most important after experiencing a trigger event which knocks you off the treadmill is to take the time to think about your life, your work and what you can do to make your life and work just perfect for you!
Start to pay attention to when you feel stuck at work. Stop and reflect. What are the reasons?
What changes can you make to enable you to feel more excited, more passionate about your work? Which new work would you rather do and why?
Work does bring satisfaction
This is important because when we don’t enjoy our work, we are wasting away our lives. You will spend more hours working in your life than any other activity. Shouldn’t this be the highest priority?
Spend some time thinking what you are most interested in. Which are your best abilities and what are you also motivated to do? See where your abilities and interests align; this way you can find the intersection, and this is what I call the vocational passion.
Work is endless and carries little meaning
I observed this with many people. While just a job gives us objectives and things to do in the second half of life what is more important is whether your work brings you coherence and meaning.
Does it make sense to you why you do the work which you do? This is coherence. Does your work bring you meaning? If not, which work would? No one from HR will run up to you on Monday morning to ask you this. It must come from deep within you.
Feeling disconnected from others
This is usually a result of not enjoying your work. As a result, you look around and everyone else seems to be liking their work. You wonder what’s wrong with you? The reality is nothing is wrong at all. You are just not fitting in and it is probably time for a change.
Start to build a support network with people who are doing what you would rather do. This can be a networking group, an online group, a class or others who you get together with. Find others who share your deep interests, and this will energize you. Find a few people who are doing exactly what you want to do next. They will give you helpful advice. Finally, find a mentor who is an expert in the field you also want to contribute to. This can be a real person or even a book you can read. This person will inspire you to greatness!
The Ten P model as one way for reflection
I developed the Ten P model to explain a practical method for thinking about and working through how to discover and experience what is most important to you in your work life.
I have observed many people accept the wrong jobs because they didn’t have a sense of purpose about their life or what was most important to them.
The longer these people stayed in their jobs which provided little passion or interest, their perspective of themselves aligned to whatever their most recent performance review had to say.
As a result, they started to think less was possible for them. Little thinking went into what exactly they wanted to do or what they thought would be their ideal role or place in the world.
Their daily position or attitude was negative as they continued to rely on others for direction in their vocational life.
I observed that it is important to invest time to figure out what exactly you are passionate about and what you love to do. I also observed that the people who were able to imagine in detail exactly how they would spend their perfect vocational day and give themselves permission to take action were able to move forward to their authentic life.
The Eight Steps Model
This model was developed as a final set of steps to implement your vision of your perfect vocational day.
Step One: Envision what you want
Making change especially when it comes to your work the fear of change tends to stop us in our tracks. We worry what will happen if we make a mistake or do the wrong thing. It can be the result of not having a clear vision of the desired state. Be clear about what you want (this is true in most aspects of life) and then you’ll be able to see how this change will get you closer to your goals.
Step Two: Write it down
Write down specific goals and outcomes. When you write something down you externalize it and it becomes more real. Review it often and carry these goals with you.
Step Three: Talk to others who care
Start talking to others who care about you and would be interested in this change. Don’t talk to people who don’t care and would not be interested in this change for you. The more you talk to others in your support network, the more committed you will become towards your plans.
Step Four: Make BIG change
Much of the fear of change comes from living a secure life of avoidance. That is a life of staying clear of risks and essentially hiding under the rock most of your life. With a strategy moving towards pleasure, you start to take more calculated risks. Be more proactive and you will start to move towards what you want vs. avoiding what you do not want in your life.
Step Five: Build a support network
Build new networks to support this change. If you are moving to a new line of work or perhaps a new area to live, start to build new connections. This will give you a foundation, structure and sense of place in your new home.
Step Six: Take small steps
Rarely does major change occur as a result of one big change. To move towards more of what you want in your life, it takes small steps. Whether you are seeking a new relationship, a new line of work or a new area to live, make small steps first.
Step Seven: Measure your progress
What gets measured gets done. Develop systematic ways of measuring and monitoring your progress.
Step Eight: Celebrate
No one is going to throw a party for you after you make a major change in your life. In fact you may even lose a few friends who don’t agree with your change. The best way to reinforce every small change in your life is to celebrate yourself! Plan in advance a trip or small party right after the change. This will serve as an anchor for the future that you can overcome the fear of change.
Implementing your Joyful work Roadmap
Perfect vocational day, it’s important to eliminate the things in your life that are not adding value. You have to decide what they are.
These are the little things in life that seem to waste up one, two or three hours a day on a regular basis. Maybe these are trivial tasks that just don’t need to be done any longer. Perhaps these are unhealthy behaviors that are no longer useful for you. Eliminating unhealthy behaviors (only you know what these are) will both lift your spirits and move your energy back into more useful areas. Your energy level will increase. Just as the memory on your computer freezes when there are too many files open, so do you when there are too many things going on in your life.
Where you place your focus each day is where you will see progress. It’s also important to examine your processes. Establish a routine for yourself each day. Perhaps you currently have a demanding job and schedule and only have an hour a day, or even less, to focus on your vocational passion journey. It’s important to establish a pattern and process for this. Whatever time you reserve, make sure it’s consistent and protected. That is, figure out a time and place each and every day when you won’t be distracted.
I believe it is also important to select a few people who already are living similar perfect vocational days. If you can actually talk to them, that would be ideal. Otherwise, perhaps you can observe how these people spend their day, so you start to have ideas how others who are already living their perfect vocational days are doing. It has been the focus of my research to understand how people who have followed their vocational passions are actually spending their days and how this has impacted the quality of their life experiences. Knowing this can help give you the extra motivation on those challenging days which you will experience along your journey.
Find a strategy to measure your progress. It doesn’t have to be a sophisticated method, just something which helps you gauge whether you are moving forward or not. That’s the beauty of written plans: you have something to constantly refer to. One of the nice things about aligning your long term, short term and daily goals with what you prize most, is that you constantly have meaningful and relevant plans to measure yourself against.
There will be days when your internal language does not benefit you. You’ll wake up in the morning and ask yourself questions, which are not helpful. Questions like, “What will happen to me when this plan fails?” or “Maybe everyone else is right when they tell me I have gone off the deep end”. Your mind does not like a vacuum and will rush to answer these questions with equally negative statements, which are not useful to you. You’ll find answers like, “Well, when this plan fails, I’ll feel completely worthless and hopeless”. “Now that I am indeed off the deep end, what will I do?”
Of course, these ideas are not useful. Remember, on those particularly challenging days, ask yourself questions like, “Why is this journey important to me and how can I enjoy more of what I already have along the way?” You might find yourself getting more useful answers. You might respond with, “Because I know what it’s like to experience a boring job and I need to move beyond this to experience more of my life.” I can make sure to take the time each day to enjoy the world and those around me, content with myself that I am on a path toward greater meaning and purpose in my life”.
As you start to create your new path, it’s equally important to develop confidence. Think of yourself as a product with great features and benefits. In this economy, it is very important to have this free agent mentality. By thinking of yourself as a product with services or products to sell, you’ll begin to focus more on what you already have which is uniquely you. If you were to make a list right now of what your best features are and what the benefits of these features would be, what would you write?
Finally, once you have this list, it’s important to match up these features and benefits with the right niche audience, who will not only buy but also appreciate and find these services and products which offer useful. This will help as you begin to align what’s most important to you in your vocational life.
The more you can define and talk about what’s important to you, and act out your new vocational role, the faster you will begin the transformation. If your plan is to own your own pet store but your current job is a clerk, that’s OK. Start to think of yourself as a pet store owner and start to experience how this will feel. Make following your vocational plan one of your top daily priorities. Make sure not a day goes by that you haven’t at least thought about it. Over time, you will develop a quiet confidence that what you are doing is right for you. Each day you will have less fear, more meaning, and more fun.
When I arrive at the start of a marathon race, it’s that quiet confidence which brings me to the starting line. I know I have done the right training, followed the right diet and have the right mental attitude to give it my best. The same is true for getting to your perfect vocational day. It takes practice.
With practice, you can begin to align all your parts in vocational harmony.
The path to Joyful work is not easy but may be the most important thing you do in your life. I will be cheering you on as you go!