New article from www.midlifeunstuck.com. Summing up research on career happiness. What Lucia calls "superpowers" = the key.
Bronnie Ware, a Sydney-based, palliative care nurse spent 8 years caring for individuals at the end of their lives and wrote an article about her learnings during that period of her career. She summarised the end-of-life wisdom offered by her patients into the 5 points below.
Her article was picked up by the global media and the full story has been crafted into a book which transformed Bronnie’s career and at the same time has influenced the lives of many, including mine.
My only focus today is on No2 but if you’d like to read the article in full – here’s the link http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bronnie-ware/top-5-regrets-of-the-dyin_b_1220965.html.
It surprised me that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE MEN she had interviewed in the last 3-12 weeks of their lives expressed the following regret: “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” These men were often octogenarians who had spent their lives as the sole bread-winner for their family.
Of course, the world for mid-lifers has changed greatly. Mid-life women today have infinitely more choice about their careers than the previous generation. That said, I wonder when we mid-lifers are nearing the end of our lives whether “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard” will remain one of our top-listed end-of-life regrets?
Look, there is nothing wrong with working hard. In fact, some of us are just built to work hard - either led by either our personality type or by the training offered by our baby-boomer parents. I don’t know about you but I certainly get a great deal of personal satisfaction out of working hard, ESPECIALLY when I am working hard at something I love doing.
When we work hard at something we love doing, or work hard at something that we are great at, it simply doesn’t drain the life out of us the way that working hard on something we either don't enjoy or are not that great at does. We feel more fulfilled. We occasionally feel exhilarated and feel like we could keep going for hours. We feel more youthful and energised. ALSO there is more of us left over at the end of the day for the people we love in our lives who probably kind of…would like to see us feeling happier. Win, win.
Working hard at something you don’t love or something that you are not great at for years or even decades appears to me to be such a waste of a life.
I have very high hopes that my fellow mid-lifers don’t feel as trapped in our “jobs” as the previous generation who had fewer career choices, less opportunities to re-train and less opportunities to share a mortgage with their partner.
However, it appears that successful professional careers (here in UK at least) require 8-12 hour work days plus lengthy commutes. If all of us mid-lifers worked hard for 8-12 hours a day doing something we simply loved/were great at, we’d all have these wildly interesting careers and perhaps we’d even be transforming the world during our work day…wouldn’t we?
As it happens, many of the patients in Bronnie’s experience also worked hard for 8-12 hours a day for 40+ years…but still wished they hadn’t. They may not have had a choice…but we do.
If you are working in a career that is draining the life out of your life, or if you are doing something that you don’t love and want to start re-designing the second half of your career, have a look at www.midlifeunstuck.com/how-i-work/ or drop me an email at email@example.com to set up a time to speak confidentially.
If you’re not quite ready but would like access to a growing body of free resources including articles, book recommendations and an up-and-coming selection of client transformation stories, signup to my newsletter at www.midlifeunstuck.com/coaching-work/.
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?
We do…but most people don't think about our career in this way. It requires some deep searching. It takes a little time and a giant dose of honesty which is difficult to do by yourself. It's incredibly possible though.
Soon, I’ll give you a step-by-step approach to how to find your superpowers for yourself.
If you can’t wait and would like to get started immediately on uncovering your personal and unique superpowers to unstick your career, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are not quite ready but want access to a growing body of free resources including articles, book recommendations and an up-and-coming selection of client transformation stories, signup to my newsletter at www.midlifeunstuck.com.