Meaningful Work

Are you where you want to be?

'Is your work meaningful? Are the rewards you’ve felt compelled to seek the rewards you actually want?’

When I read these two sentences in Michelle Obama’s memoir, ‘Becoming’, I found myself nodding in recognition.

It’s not unusual for clients to come for coaching because they’ve hit a roadblock in their career. Sometimes it’s because they’ve ended up where they are because they’ve done what they thought they were supposed to do, what other people thought best, what was ‘sensible’ or ‘logical’, or because everyone else was doing it.

Like Sandra.

Sandra had landed an interview with a prestigious international institution. Nothing new there - people often coach with me to be able to marshal their enthusiasm, excitement and nervous energy into a compelling interview presence to land the job they’ve set their sights on.

Sandra didn’t feel like that.

It was a fantastic job, and she should have been thrilled, she said. Her family and friends were delighted, and were pressing her to go for it.

But she felt flat and unmotivated. Her heart just wasn’t in it.

She struggled to accept her own feelings. The arguments her family and friends made were so ‘right’.

We took a sheet of paper and split it into two columns, heading one: ‘What other people say’ and the other ‘What’s important to me’. This is what we found:

What other people say

  • It’s a prestigious company
  • It’ll look great on your CV
  • The job’s secure
  • It’s fantastic money
  • It has great travel opportunities
  • Think of the credibility you’ll gain
  • What have you got to lose by going to the interview?

What’s important to me

  • I want to go freelance
  • I want to be responsible for myself
  • I want to choose my own projects
  • I want to do something I'm passionate about
  • I don’t want to work for a bureaucratic institution again
  • I don’t what to go to an interview and waste people’s time
  • I don’t want to set myself up for interview rejection

We went down the list of ‘what other people say’ and asked: Is this important to me, and if so, on a scale of one to ten, how important? Every item scored between 2 and 5.

What was important to other people, wasn’t important to Sandra.

It was clear why she felt so lacklustre about such a ‘fantastic’ job opportunity. It was fantastic for someone, but that someone wasn’t her.

The roadblock lifted.

Sandra's energy was no longer consumed fighting the tension between what she felt she should want and what she really wanted.She could now focus on what was meaningful to her in her career, and how to make that happen.

For Sandra, the time was also right to explore more areas of her life where ‘shoulds’ and other people’s 'importants' were getting in the way, and to acknowledge that although in the past some of those importants might have fitted her, they didn’t fit now. What she valued had shifted and was ripe for review.

How about you?

Is your work meaningful? Or are you feeling lacklustre when you 'should' feel great?

Are the rewards you’ve felt compelled to seek the rewards you actually want? Or are other people's 'importants' blocking your way?

Is it possible what was once important to you may have shifted?

Want more? Let's talk.