On increasing satisfaction at work
When Maya started working with me just over a year ago she wanted to quit her job ASAP. During our first call she was already able to recognize that it was an emotional impulsive urge to just close this chapter and hand in her notice. Sometimes we can confuse our impulse with intuition like this and it can really get us into trouble. Impulse and intuition are not the same. Impulse comes from an emotional level and is more reactive in its nature, while intuition comes from a more grounded place of deep knowing.
Once she understood that, she was able to pause, take a deep breath and re-evaluate her situation. Maya was working in Tech which provided her with a steady safe income. She was also a trained coach and astrologer but she never took the leap to pursue it as her career.
Within a few sessions we helped Maya get more clarity on her overall vision. She realised it’s going to be a process, not something she could do or want to do overnight. We talked about the importance + made a plan to build a good foundation before she takes the leap.
We also talked about the importance of finding joy, grounding and fulfilment in her current job.
If you’ve been here for a while you know that mindset is my jam. I truly believe that so much of how we experience our reality is created by our own thoughts. No matter what our future plans are, we must remember that our life is happening right now. Not in some hypothetical future. And while it’s important to honour and prioritise our dreams, it's important to enjoy our now.
Our dreams and plans are meant to inspire us and move us towards taking action, not to negate our present moment.
Like Maya, you might be feeling like your current job isn’t the ‘right’ path for you. Maybe you feel like you’re on the ‘right path’ but you’ve lost the zest that you used to have when you just started. Maybe, the whole talk around ‘follow your passion’ makes you doubt if you even have one (if that’s the case, you might find this helpful - a different way to think about purpose). Or maybe you’re just not sure what it is, but something feels off.
Wherever you may find yourself at this season of your working life, I’d love to encourage you to think about how you might be able to increase your satisfaction in your current job. Keep reading, I'm breaking it down...
Before my daughter Maya was born, I used to teach early yoga classes at Yoga Hero in Leeds Dock. Every Monday and Wednesday I’d arrive around 5:45am and be greeted with a friendly good morning and a big genuine smile by one of the most shiny souls I’ve probably ever met -- Daniel, who maintains and cleans the Dock.
One morning I asked Daniel - “Daniel, I don’t know how early you start your day but you’re already here when I arrive and when I come back to teach in the afternoon you’re still here. Always with a big happy smile. What’s your secret?” He didn’t give me the philosophical answer I was perhaps hoping for (maybe there’s a magic wand to happiness?). Instead, his answer revealed a simple truth we can all learn from: “I love people. I love talking with people. I love connecting with them. I know the people of the Dock and if I can make them smile on their way to work…”
Daniel found purpose in who he was at work.
In my early twenties I worked at the airport security. Not a job I particularly loved or was passionate about, but one that gave me the opportunity to explore one of my curiosities - people's behaviours / dynamics (oh the variety of people I got to see and interact with in my time there!). On those days that I didn’t feel inspired to go to work, I reminded myself that I’m getting paid to learn.
I found joy in the opportunity to nurture my curiosity.
One of the first steps Maya took as part of her bigger overall goals, was offering workshops in her workplace on topics she was passionate about. This way, not only she had the opportunity to practice her skills and start building a client list, she also started enjoying her work more.
Maya found satisfaction in using new types of skills / knowledge at her workplace.
Establishing boundaries, stress management, practicing mindfulness at work and work-life integration, are all things that help my clients find more happiness at work. Even things like organising your workspace (adding some plants, buying a fun mug), doing something for yourself first thing in the morning before you start your day, going for a walk or meditating in your lunch break, etc. can make a big difference to your mood and motivation at work.
But the biggest shifts in their work-satisfaction came with the deeper shifts.
If you’re not really satisfied in your current career, start with understanding the why behind it:
What do you feel is missing? Do you feel like you aren’t really using your skill set? Does work feel monotonous and you crave more challenge? Is it that you don’t care much about what you do or that you feel like it doesn't have an impact? Is it a lack of confidence that keeps you playing small? Is it a lack of resilience that makes it harder for you to grow from setbacks? Is it the work environment or the company’s culture that you don’t like? Or perhaps it’s something outside of work that’s affecting how you feel about your work? As you’re reflecting on these questions, please be aware of our human tendency to fall into the ‘neighbour's grass is greener’ trap. As Elizabeth Gilbert once said (I'm paraphrasing here) 'Every job comes with a sh*t sandwich, you just have to figure out which sandwich you’re willing to eat'. As someone who absolutely loves what I do, I couldn’t agree more. Like with any career, there are things I don’t like, but I’m happy to eat the sandwich. Once you’ve identified what’s the reason behind not feeling satisfied at work, grab a pen and paper and brainstorm ideas and steps on how you can make your current job more satisfying. Don’t edit yourself, decide upfront that if something pops to your head you'll write it down. Ignore the voice in your head that tells you “it’s silly” “who do you think you are” “it’ll never work”, write it all down... Let the examples I’ve shared with you above inspire you as you're thinking of ideas. I've also compiled a list for you with the main traits that tend to make work more satisfying, this may help you as your thinking about ideas:
Competence: building your inner confidence and working through feelings of imposterism will both help you feel more competent at work and as a result more free to speak up, share ideas, ask for help and come up with creative solutions.
Creativity: feeling like there’s space to express yourself, your thoughts and ideas, whether they’re directly related or not to what you do.
Impact / Meaning: bringing more purpose to work can mean connecting what you do to what you believe in and care about, rather than passively embracing the status quo. For example, if you value equality and diversity, you can make a point of bringing that more into your workplace. If you’re passionate about environmental issues you can try to raise awareness around it in your workplace and even suggest ways your company can contribute towards positive change.
Become a mentor: there's strong data showing that volunteering your time can increase your happiness. One good way to start is to become a mentor at work. Helping someone else achieve their goals emphasises your strengths and utilise other skills you might have not had the opportunity to use yet.
Autonomy: you might not have much control over this aspect, but I thought I’d mention it just in case. Feeling that you have some control over your day and that your actions matter can significantly increase your career satisfaction.
Skills: I’ve once heard that the reason many people are unhappy in their careers is because they’re constantly trying to improve their weaknesses. Focusing on your strengths, identifying what you enjoy doing and the activities you’re able to master relatively quickly, can make a big difference to the levels of satisfaction you experience in your career.
Values / Priorities: for some people, the ability to do what you love means helping others. For a different person, it’s expressing their thoughts and feelings creatively. Others value travel or spending time with their family. Reflect on what matters most to you and then try to think about ways you can align this more with your work. When I work with clients, especially those who come to explore their career path, we look at who they are and their life as a whole. We ask questions that go beyond what they’re good at and what they enjoy doing. We look at their vision for their life, what they’d like to experience, what matters most to them, their values, priorities, lifestyle and more. If you’re somewhat at a crossroads in your career, try to think about your life as a whole rather than focusing on work in a vacuum. Ask yourself - Is this career supporting the life I’m trying to create?