It’s very easy to get settled into a job and just drift along.
You get these nudges of dissatisfaction.
Days where you wonder how you got here.
You think about all of the excited anticipation you had when you first started and wonder when it all fizzled out.
I remember that feeling. Working in a job that seemed so promising when I started, only to end up back in the situation that made me leave the previous one.
The danger is that you start to think it’s you. That you’re not capable. That this is what you deserve, what you’ll always attract. It’s not on the card for you to laugh with your colleagues or be satisfied with your efforts everyday. You start to believe that people that actually enjoy going to work are an urban myth. There’s resignation – better just get on with getting through another day.
But work is what makes up such a huge part of our waking lives. If we’re not thriving there it is almost impossible to feel amazing in everything else we’re doing. It seeps into venting to your girlfriends over cocktails. It taints your relationship when you come home grumpy everyday.
So how do we stay on the excited, thriving, full of promise track instead of slipping into career doldrums?
We set a personal work vision.
Setting my own personal work vision
Eight or so months ago when I started looking for a job, I naturally thought what I wanted. What might surprise you is I didn’t set out to be a business analyst in an international technology company (my day job). My vision was more vague and more potent than that.
Here’s a peek at my my wishlist –
- To work in a collaborative, team based environment
- More project orientated responsibilities rather than day to day
- To be trusted to do my job without constant supervision
- Clear expectations of me – I know how to win
- A values driven business where it’s not just words on the wall
- Somewhere sustainable, well balanced working is actively encouraged
Notice that nothing on this list told me what I’d end up doing. There is a lot of gray. Plenty of different opportunities could fulfil the requirements on this list. Equally, plenty of opportunities are excluded.
It speaks to how I work best, when I’m motivated, what’s going to make me enjoy going to work. And this is what a personal work vision is all about.
It’s tapping into what makes us tick. When we have really great days at work that leave feeling satisfied, accomplished, buzzing, motivated to go back and do it all again, what do those days look like?
Developing your personal vision at work
Now you don’t need to be looking for a new job to be this intentional. You can create a vision for yourself within your current job and it can guide you just as strongly as my vision guided my job hunt.
Start with considering these questions.
- Who do you want to be?
- What do you want to be known for?
- What situations get the best out of you? What about the worst?
- When you have a really great day at work, what is about that day that makes it great?
Go nuts. Brainstorm it all out. Initially you don’t want to filter out anything as you’re likely to filter out the bits that you really want but aren’t entirely comfortable with yet. Those are the things we really want to make sure end up in your personal vision. Over time you can go back and refine it down.
Some guiding principles to keep in mind:
- Be aspirational – on your best day at work, what would you be doing, how do you organise yourself, who are (or aren’t) you working with, how does it all feel?
- Don’t limit yourself to your current role – what worked and didn’t work in previous jobs? What about outside of work? Draw on all of your experiences
- Ask yourself, is this really me or is it what people expect of me? It’s crucial to be honest with yourself and own what you truly want. No one has to ever see it, it’s just for you.
- Remember to embrace the grey, allow space for the fulfillment of your vision to be even better than you imagine.
Living your Personal Work Vision
The beauty of building a vision is it becomes an inbuilt point of reference. Does this action move me closer to my vision or further away from it? Does this choice align with who I want to be? Much the same way having a vision for a company ensures everyone is moving in the same direction, having a vision for yourself keeps you on track.
It sounds so simple. Develop a vision one Sunday afternoon then start making different choices at work and magically things will improve dramatically.
It would be wonderful if it was that easy and some days it will be but also our brains are funny like things that like to play tricks on us. So let’s look at some that are more likely to come up so you can be prepared to navigate them successfully.
Trains of thought that could bring you unstuck in living your vision:
- Thinking it’s impossible to live your vision at your current job. It could be the power of this exercise is you face how much where you’re at isn’t where you want to be and you’re motivated to move on. That’s amazing! Also it pays to focus on what you CAN control, which is you. How are you deviating from your vision? It’s easy to blame external factors but we always have a role to play. Use your vision to make yourself accountable to doing the best you can. Little shifts add up to big changes over time so don’t write off what you CAN do.
- Creating a vision based in shoulds – I should be uber organised, I should be the one who makes sure everyone else is good, I should be a morning person with an elaborate morning ritual. I should. I should. I should. Building a vision based on what you think you should be rather than who you really are is a recipe for disaster. It takes you out of integrity with yourself. You’ll constantly be fighting against your natural inclinations, contorting yourself to be something you’re not. This is a huge waste of energy. And if somehow you manage to fulfil your vision, you’ll be miserable because you’re not really being you. As you develop your vision, ask yourself do I really want this? Am I adding it because I’m good at it? Because people expect it of me? And keep asking those questions as you’re using your vision to guide how you show up at work.
- Worrying you won’t be accepted, that your you-est you isn’t good enough. As humans the desire to belong, be accepted is very deeply ingrained because once upon a time our survival depended on it. This biological programming tends to rear its anytime it fears that we’ll be excluded even though it’s no longer a case of life and death. What I’ve learnt is the more you accept yourself, the easier it is for others to accept you. Plus as we’ve already mentioned, doing anything other than what you really want defeats the purpose of the whole exercise.
When we stop trying to fit a mold and start believing that we are good enough, we stop wasting all that energy that gets poured into constantly doubting, always evaluating people’s reactions, forever comparing and trying to guess what people really think. Even simple thought patterns like, ‘if I leave now will people think I’m slacking?’
But I get that it’s easier said than done to shut off the nagging doubts, the impostor syndrome and have deep faith in your abilities.
This is where having your personal work vision is so valuable. You have something concrete you can refer back to when you’re doubting. You can think about if I was acting as that version of me, how would I handle this situation right now?
A 1% improvement compounded everyday is a 3800% increase over a year, small, incremental, consistent effort in stepping into your vision will add up to massive change so the main thing is to just keep going.
You’ve got this!