Let's talk about work! It's been on my brain lately, and on the minds of most of my clients too.
It feels like, back in March 2020, we were all playing a game of musical chairs, and when the music stopped, it never started back up again. If you didn't like the chair you were sitting in (or ended up without a chair at all), you didn't have much choice but to hold on and make the best of an intractable situation.
With the possibility of the world opening up again this summer or fall, questions are coming up about what we've learned, what we want, and what "opening up" actually means. Whether you're contemplating returning to the office, working from home indefinitely, changing jobs, going back to school, or building a whole new initiative at work, we're all asking some form of the question: What do I want to be different than before... or the same?
What are we doing all this work for anyway, and how does it fit into our lives? To sort through this, you'll find quick resources and questions in four categories below.
1. What is work for?
I taught a workshop for Insurors of Tennessee last week, and, working with them, I was struck by the power of their contribution. These people help us protect the physical and financial security of our bodies, homes, and livelihoods. It's impactful work, but I imagine the daily routine of phone calls, emails, and paperwork can feel mundane at times. Work is work, after all. I know record producers, musicians, authors, accountants, TV writers, and social media managers who run into that same feeling.
In The Habit Trip, Money is one of the Ten Areas of Well-Being, and it's about much more than the numbers in our bank accounts. "Money, at its root, is about stress-reduction, security, and freedom. Having enough of it allows us to live without financial strain taking a toll on our health."
Hopefully, our jobs are rewarding, but so many of the benefits we reap—safety, pleasure, travel, entertainment, and connection—have been inaccessible over the last year, which can make the daily grind feel endless. It helps to revisit the inherent value of the work, find ways we can still connect or contribute, and consider the first adventures we might have when it's safe to go out with our people again.
What is the money you're earning for? What feels great about work, and what changes would you like to make in coming years?
2. Outgrowing our armor
Adam Grant interviewed Brené Brown on his podcast, Work Life recently about the armor we develop as kids to help us survive in the world and what happens when we reach mid-life. (She defines that as late-30s to mid-50s.) She says the armor "prevents us from growing into different areas because the armor doesn't grow with us. It stays the same size." Brené is currently outgrowing her own perfectionism in favor of "stretching and learning."
This took me right back to Marcia Masulla, who I profile toward the end of The Habit Trip. Marcia built an extraordinary career as a solo entrepreneur after developing her own armor when she lost her mom at age 11 and was left in the care of her abusive dad. "Marcia is now thirty-nine, and her armor is beginning to rust. She doesn't need it as much anymore. Lugging that protective shield around for nearly three decades strengthened her spine and steadied her resolve. It helped her survive and got her where she is today. But it’s beginning to feel like dead weight now. It’s weighing her down more than keeping her safe, and she is discovering how much more powerful it feels to take off the armor and walk free."
Do your roles and expectations at work still fit you? What would you do differently if you weren't afraid to fail?
3, Impostor syndrome
Impostor syndrome needs no introduction for many of us, but for the uninitiated, Merriam-Webster defines it as "a false and sometimes crippling belief that one's successes are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill." It often includes feeling that your peers are smarter or more creative than you and comes with constant fear of being "found out."
NPR's Life Kit podcast offers five tips on how to move past it, beginning with naming it and taking stock of your true talents. And if you want a deeper dive into how women and people of color can defeat this trope altogether, the Harvard Business Review's article Stop Telling Women They Have Impostor Syndrome offers an enlightening perspective. Bottom line: This "syndrome" isn't a flaw we all have. It's not us. It's the product of a culture that rewards brazen confidence in men and punishes it in women and people of color.
What professional skills are you undeniably good at? If you don't know, ask a friend or colleague! You can share the strengths you see in them while you're at it. Let's lean on each other to leave this "syndrome" in the dust as we all come out of quarantine.
4. Thinking big
Y'all know I love me some Dan Pink. I'm biased, of course, because he's been so generous with his support of my work over the years, but his Pinkcast never fails to communicate quick, work-related gems. This week his 2-minute video is: How to Carve Out an Hour a Week to Think Big.
We get so lost in the weeds sometimes that we don't make space for expansive thinking. When was the last time you set aside 30-minutes or an hour to let your mind wander, to raise your sights and look past managing what's right in front of you? It's a luxury, for sure, but worth finding a few minutes a week if you're able.
When you turn off all the screens and daydream about what's possible, what comes to mind?
The logistics of the coming months may be nearly as confusing as the first months of the pandemic last year, but at least now we know just how capable we are of managing unexpected events.
One of the biggest lessons I've learned in 18 years as a coach is that the periods of time when we're uprooted hold the greatest potential for growth. When you move to a new city, job, relationship, or a post-pandemic world, your roots are loose, and you're free to establish new ones in fresh, surprising, and unfamiliar ways. It's a huge opportunity. What do you want to be different... or the same?
Now is as good a time as any to think about it.
Speaking of raising our sights to new adventures, I'm rolling out a pilot program of 1-and-1 Workshops. If a company or school hires me to do an hour-long workshop, I will do the same one (virtually, for now) for a non-profit or charity of their choice for free.
I've been trying to figure this out for some time, and right now feels like a good moment to leap. This will allow me to offer more support for people at all socio-economic levels, many of whom have been doing the heavy lifting to get us through this pandemic. If you would like me to do a workshop for your organization, you can read more about topics to choose from HERE. We'll see how this works, but I'd love for it to become a regular part of my business model!
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