This is the fourth in a series of five articles on going From Survive to Thrive in our lives. The first article had some introductory sections in it. If you haven’t read those yet and would like to – click here – the page will open in a new window so you won’t lose this page.
We’re covering five areas in our lives that need to go from survive to thrive…
This article will cover work. Click the links above for the other articles.
Our Work-Life Needs to Thrive
I know for me personally, work is the main area of my life where I desperately need to get out of survival mode, because it is impacting all of the other areas of my life in a negative way. It’s been, too long since I have felt like I was thriving in what I do for a living.
How many of us can answer, “Yes” to the following questions about work… Do you feel stretched, too thin? Do you feel tired? Do you feel uninspired? Do you have a constant desire to quit and find something different? Do you dread going into the office? Are you in a bad mood when you get home from work and take it out on your loved ones?
I can tell you that I am worn out. I am unmotivated. I am in survival mode.
We spend such an inordinate amount of time at work, compared to pretty much everything else in life. If we “only” work 40 hours per week plus factoring in our commute time, we are probably looking at close to 30% of our time spent working.
On a normal daily basis we spend more time working than even sleeping – we spend more time wearing ourselves out than refreshing ourselves. If anything has to give, if anything has to suffer – it isn’t work – it’s usually time with family and friends that has to suffer, or maybe our sleep.
We spend our work days just looking forward to our next vacation – to the next time we get to escape. Instead of looking forward constantly to our next vacation – why don’t we find a career where we don’t even think about getting away from it, where we almost hate to get away from it?
Let’s work towards figuring out what it is that motivates us – let’s work towards escaping survival mode and get back to thriving in our work.
In order to get back to thriving we need to begin by looking at what got us into this survival mode in the first place and why we stay there.
How Did I Get Here?
Why do you work where you do right now? I know for me, when I started my current position, almost ten years ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into or what my simple job would morph into over time.
I knew I wanted to get a stable job where someone else paid me every two weeks instead of me having to drum up work for by consulting with other companies, but I didn’t purposefully seek out the company, or the position, or even the industry I am currently employed in. I was presented with an opportunity by a friend, it sounded good, it paid well, and the cycle began.
A lot of the “How did I get here” is answered by one decision we make – probably not fully vetted out, without considering the long-term consequences or rewards, before we had any clue what we wanted to do for a living, and then all of that was followed by a long pattern of continual unintentional drift along the way.
Sometimes we just take a job that we think will look good on our resume, especially when we are younger – to get to the next job – maybe even our dream job. And then we get stuck in the job we never intended to do for the rest of our lives.
How many of us continually allow ourselves to stay in survival mode though, because our employer keeps dangling an occasional carrot out in front of us?
Every six months or so, there is an offering of a little more money, maybe some company stock, a potential yearly bonus. You keep thinking about quitting, but if you just stick it out for another six months then…
Here’s what happens to a lot of us… we take a job, we make some money, we buy some stuff, we need to work harder to get promoted so we can make more money, we get married, we have some kids, our expenses rise exponentially, we start thinking about paying for our children’s college and then our own retirement… before you know it, we are stuck.
We are trapped. Enjoy the hamster wheel in your shiny 6’ x 6’ cage.
We spend so much time and energy on the hamster wheel that we don’t have any motivation to even think about improving our situation.
We are really just surviving and we have lost the desire to thrive altogether. Don’t think that I am giving us a scapegoat though – we are in control of what we do for a living. We have gotten ourselves into this and it is up to us to get ourselves out.
Love the One You’re With
I think it is essential for our happiness, our emotional well-being, and our physical health that we thrive in what we do for a living. It is unhealthy to stay in survival mode.
But, we can’t necessarily go to work tomorrow and quit. I have threatened it many times and then my wife threatens me – that’s another vicious cycle for another time. So, what can you do in your daily job to begin thriving again?
I think we probably enjoyed something about our current jobs when we first started. We need to rediscover what it was that motivated us initially.
Maybe we just need to be courageous enough to talk to our boss about what we need. I hope you are not in a situation where you cannot openly discuss these kinds of things where you are. If you are a valuable employee they will either help you thrive again or provide you with an opportunity to look elsewhere.
My goal-setting exercise with my boss at the beginning of the year began with me telling him that my main goal was to position myself to quit by mid-year. So, I asked him to consider what was most important to him, assuming that I hypothetically wouldn’t be there more than six more months.
Knowing that I was working towards a new opportunity, even without fulling knowing what I would be doing, greatly helped my attitude. I am in less of a survival mode. I am not to the thriving part yet, but working towards it.
I know one thing that I personally need in order to feel like I am thriving at work is to be challenged. I am not a data entry type guy. I want to fix something. I need a task that I can buy into and see the value in. I am not good at just “doing stuff” to clear someone elses to-do list.
As cheesy as it sounds, I need to believe that what I am doing will make a difference, even if it isn’t on a global scale where I help eliminate poverty, or end world hunger, or some other monumental task. But, I have to feel like I am making a difference, even if it is just to my company, our end customer, another employee, or even myself.
Maybe it isn’t the job, maybe it is your perception of it or how it has changed. Maybe it’s just your mindset that needs to change.
Thrive again where you first started. Love the one you’re with.
But, If you can’t find space to thrive again in your current position, start looking for your next one. Start making the necessary changes in your life to free yourself up, so you can start shopping for your next gig as soon as possible. You are in control of where you work.
Find Your Passion and Pursue It
Maybe you have tried thriving at work and you know it’s a losing proposition. Maybe it’s time to consider finding that job that you always dreamed of doing. Maybe not the dream of being an astronaut – your momma lied to you about that one – you can’t be anything you ever wanted.
Find out what you do well or are truly interested in and do that. Find out what gets your heart pumping again, what excites you.
For me, I have had a desire to write for a long time. I have thought about writing for years, but never did anything about it, because it just didn’t fit in with my current position or even within my company. I didn’t know what I wanted to write and I still don’t know if it will turn into my next “occupation,” but I had to finally just try it. It is something that I enjoy and am challenged by and pray is an encouragement to someone. I am passionate about writing, so I am pursuing it. We’ll see where this journey takes me over the next year or two.
What is it for you? Where does your mind wander to when you daydream?
What do you spend all your free-time on?
What problems would you like to solve?
Steve Jobs said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
Find what you are passionate about and thrive again – love what you do and do great work.
Aside from figuring out what you are really interested in, we need to also take purposeful steps toward freeing ourselves up from the encumbrances of life so that you can do what you are passionate about. If I want to take some time off from my day job to write – I have to take some risks. I have to scale back on my budget so I can live on savings for awhile. I need to eliminate debt so I can get off the hamster wheel I am on right now. If I keep spending, if I go buy a new car or a bigger house, guess what – I’m not getting off the hamster wheel. Be smart, be intentional.
Find your passion and start pursuing it today.
Serve God In Your Profession
It doesn’t matter what your day job is or what you do for a living. It doesn’t matter if you are the low man on the totem pole and or you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company with 100,000 employees – you can still serve God in any role that you are in – and you must. Knowing that we are helping others through our vocation can help us in our pursuit of thriving.
Whatever your role is, you are able to serve God where you are. Maybe you are able to hire other Christians that could use a head start. Maybe it’s the money you make that allows you to help people in need. Maybe there are people at work that you can influence for good. If you look at the New Testament, the characters who had the greatest impact in leading others to Christ, a lot of the time – they were the everyday people with regular jobs.
Give back. The Bible tells us that we are blessed so that we can bless others. It also tells us that to those who have been richly blessed, more of them will be required. Thrive with God in your work and you will find greater pleasure in doing the menial daily work you are currently engaged in.
“Work to live, don’t live to work.”
“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
I want to be more like Thomas Edison who said, “I never did a day’s work in my life, it was all fun.”