If you are reading this you are likely to be a mid-lifer (or my slightly deluded dad who has been known to call people “elderly” when they are exactly the same age as he is).
You are likely to have been earning a crust for roughly 20-30 years. You’ve been around a few workplaces and seen the good, the bad and the ugly of work life. If you are anything like me, you might also to be sensing a slight down-turn in the perfect functioning of a few body parts - just this week I visited a physio, a podiatrist and with my GP for 3 separate body malfunctions which I am convinced can be attributed to my mid-life status.
Whatever your gender, the average mid-lifer often spends more time avoiding accidental glimpses of their (gracefully?) aging body rather than throwing admiring glances in the bedroom mirror. More mid-lifers are responding to the inevitable onslaught of grey hairs and their naturally slowing metabolism by taking up a new sport.
According to Sport England, the age-group with the strongest growth in sports participation over the last decade is 45-54year olds, with an impressive 25% increase over the last ten years. More specifically, we are taking to lyra-cladding our aging bodies to still the passage of time. 33% of participants in the London Triathlon last year were in the 40years+ age group in comparison to 25% just five years ago.
Whatever your age, if you are lucky enough to still have your parents in your life, you might also be involved with the medical problems associated with the even more rapid aging process experienced by late-lifers.
It’s complex being a mid-lifer.
One of the simple elements of mid-life should be eking out a little happiness from your work life…but it’s not, is it?
We, as human beings, don’t appear to be very good at finding happiness at work. Why not?
These appear to be the most common reasons offered by the mid-lifers I come across for their inability to lock down their own happiness at work:
1. proximity to the problem
2. too little time
3. lack of perspective
4. persistent and recurring energy depletion from performing work that drains us
5. fear of change
6. financial situation concerns
7. worry about loss of security and stability
8. no idea how to begin to change the situation
Sometimes we resign ourselves to the (false) idea that there’s nothing we can do about it – apparently “No one really LOVES their job anyway”.
Let me tell you a well-kept secret: Some people really, really LOVE THEIR WORK. But, these people only communicate this openly when they are with other people who also REALLY LOVE THEIR WORK.
These are good people. They have no wish to make less fortunate individuals feel bad or open a can of worms that they don’t have the skill/time/inclination to re-pack.
But, how do they instinctively recognise that we are not a member of their secret HAPPY AT WORK CLUB? This is a work-in-progress from a www.midlifeunstuck.com research perspective. But, it appears to have something to do with the stress we hold in our faces and bodies when we/someone else around us talk about work.
These lesser-spotted lovers-of-their-work avoid childishly prodding you with ‘Na Na Na Na Na…I’m enjoying my job more than you’re enjoying yours!” Unless, of course, they are sadists who get kicks out of the misfortune of others.
These lovers-of-their-work are, of course, not happy at work all the time (happiness is not a life-time state but an accumulation of moments.) But, they enjoy many, many more of these moments than the average Joe/Jolene.
How do they become part of this secret lovers-of-their-work club?
First of all, the easy bit – they start with a “decent career” that they don’t hate. Here are, what I believe to be, the four components of a decent career.
1. Satisfying a human need to help people to do something that you believe to be valuable. This one is pretty obvious but here are some examples from my clients:
- helping sell higher quality wine to people who love wine but don’t have a big budget;
- helping companies make better decisions by having great future-focussed financial information;
- helping customers design great advertisements to sell more of their products;
- helping making all employees within our business create long-term relationships with customers;
- helping people improve their fitness to enable their lives to be more fun;
- helping banks keep their systems operational so that 1000s of people get paid;
- helping clients design their perfect building/extension to allow them to live happier lives;
- helping charities to raise funds to enable more and better assistance to be offered to those in need;
- helping parents to build resilience in their children to take the stress out of life transitions.
2. Basic life needs can be satisfied
- enough money to cover mortgage and life;
- a commute that doesn’t make you want to pull your eyelashes out one by one over many hours
- in general, working the hours of work that you signed up to - even if sometimes it is a bit crazy
- a safe working environment – not just hard-hat wearing but emotion safety from excessive and prolonged stress
3. Satisfactory freedom to work how you like to work. I don’t mean you like to get paid a fortune for doing a few hours work. This one is more to do with personality style and values matching your work (the majority of the time).
- if you are an introvert that you have time to think before needing to perform/give your opinion;
- if you hate details that you are not required to fine-tune everything in your work life, all of the time;
- if you like to do the right thing that your work allows you to operate within your own moral compass guidelines;
- if you thrive on creativity that there is enough requirement/time available to satisfy that itch;
- if you enjoy managing a team that you have time and space to do just that in your own style;
- if you have children whom you like to see regularly, you have the flexibility to satisfy that parental need.
4. Some regular feedback to allow you to feel satisfied that you are doing a good job.
Rarely do people LOVE THEIR WORK from a deep, dark, lonely cave – emotionally or physically. To feel satisfied at work, we humans require some feedback on how we are doing e.g.
- linked-in “likes” to an article you wrote;
- a pat on the back from your boss;
- winning a significant contract;
- verbal praise for doing something specific really well;
- an informal recommendation to speak to you about something you are great at;
- a bloody good appraisal; and of course...
- let’s not forget…a decent bonus.
The more detail-focussed of you might notice the multiple use of the words “satisfied/satisfaction” in the above components of a “decent career”.
Let me be clear, ticking all 4 boxes above will NOT lead to “career happiness” but it usually leads to “career satisfaction”.
If this is your first time reading any of my articles, I’ll let you know now that “career satisfaction” isn’t a driver for me. I aim a great deal higher.
So how can you raise the bar to focus on finding “career happiness”?
The absolute key lies in finding your superpowers, understanding what is stopping you from using more of your superpowers at work and designing possible career options to do just that. That’s it. That’s the secret behind my work. It’s as easy as that.
So, why don’t we all know what our superpowers are?