How Finding Your Flow Helps You to Change Your Life
You hate your job. It’s making you miserable. You dread going into work every day, and it’s beginning to impact your personal life too. You want to make changes, but you:
- Don’t know where to start
- Don’t know what you’d do next
- Haven’t got skills in any other career
- Need to pay the bills
These are all common beliefs and problems that occur when you know you need to make changes, but you don’t know how or what to change.
Fortunately, by being precise about what you do and don’t like about your work and what you’re good and not so good at, you can use your skills and passions to shape your job or career into one that lights you up.
When you HATE your job
When you get into a situation where you feel you hate your work, you’ve gone too far down a road of dissatisfaction. What do I mean by that? I mean that no one hates everything they do. Even if you feel like there’s nothing positive about the work situation you’re in right now, there is, there was likely more at some point in the past, and there can be again.
It is possible to rediscover the joy in your work or at least understand what you like and dislike well enough to make sure you don’t jump from the frying pan into the fire when you move to a new job or career.
In one of my previous posts, I talked about how to re-craft your career into one that you love by:
1. Finding ways to do more of what you enjoy
2. Re-framing your thinking about what you do currently
3. Reshaping your job to meet your out of work needs
4. Automating and delegating your weaknesses or the tasks you don’t enjoy
However, it’s tough to find ways to do more of what you enjoy or automate and delegate your weaknesses or the tasks you don’t enjoy when you’re unsure exactly what those tasks are.
In this newsletter, I’ll share detailed descriptions about how you can find what you enjoy, what you’re good at, what you don’t enjoy and what you’re not so good at so that you can use those insights to reshape your current role or find a new role that brings you joy.
Learn what is wrong with where you are
Here we will explore your current reality. We’ll look in-depth at what you enjoy and don’t enjoy about your work. You may feel that you hate everything about your current job, but I assure you that you don’t. There will be snippets in there that you enjoy, and we’ll work together to find them. We’ll use those breadcrumbs as clues to help you to shape your future career into the work you love.
I will explain two activities that you can use to help you to understand better what makes you tick and how you can use that insight to find work that you love.
I’ll provide a deeper dive into these activities in my online course, which is coming soon.
The activities are called ‘Getting to Know You,’ and ‘Diving Deeper.’
Activity 1 — Getting to Know You
Over the next week, throughout the day, I’d like you to record how you feel while completing your work tasks.
You’ll do this by using a timer that alerts you at different times throughout your day. Each time it alerts you, you need to write down what you’re doing at that moment and how you’re feeling about that activity. You can do this using a pen and paper, on your phone, or your computer. Whatever works best for you. Just make where you record what your feeling is easily accessible. (This is called the Experience Sampling Method — ESM and was discovered by Larson, R., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1983).)
This exercise will help you to understand better what you like and don’t like about your work. If you take the time to immerse yourself in this exercise, and use your time outside of it to think deeply about what you learn, you’ll become much clearer about what makes you happy — and unhappy — at work.
At the end of the week, review your different recordings, and place them into the following categories:
- Positive and I’m good at it
- Positive but I’m not good at it
- Negative and I’m good at it
- Negative and I’m not good at it
Now, what do I do?
- The activities that fall into the positive and good at category are things you need to be doing more.
- The activities that fall into the positive and not good at category are things you need to be doing more of, but you need to polish your skills to continue to make these tasks enjoyable.
- The activities that fall into the negative category are those you need to delegate, or automate — whether you’re good at them or not.
But, the activity takes a whole week!
The ‘Getting to Know You’ activity takes time to complete, but it is necessary. It catches you when you’re in a moment rather than allowing you to look back at scenarios and judge them in retrospect. However, the retrospect view is valuable too.
As well as completing the ‘Getting to Know You’ activity over a week, you can also review your day as a one-off activity using the ‘Diving Deeper’ activity. The ‘Diving Deeper’ activity will give you some faster insights into what motivates and drains you at work.
One wonderful example of fitting personal needs to career choices I heard through my podcast interviews, was from a woman who runs a business that delivers educational lectures to the elderly.
“A thing that was a driving force for me in starting my own business was that my circadian rhythms are broken. I live in Connecticut, but I’m kind of in the Hawaii time zone. That was very difficult to explain to bosses in corporate America when I was consistently late. Now I’ve managed to take that circadian rhythm and use it to my benefit because often times staff at these communities want to go home to be with their families, so at night there’s not much going on. So, from 6.30/7 for about an hour, I go in and share stories with people who have dementia.”
You can listen to the podcast episode here.
The ‘Getting to Know You’ activity is grounded in a concept called Psychological Flow founded by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, and which is part of the positive psychology field. You can listen to more about the concept here.
Activity 2 — Diving Deeper
In this activity, you will find a series of questions that relate to how you feel about your workday from when you get up to go to work to when you get home. Think carefully about your day and jot down answers to these questions.
Below are a few snippets of the questions you could ask yourself about your workday. You can add to these questions to make your insights even richer.
- What do you think about work when it first enters your head?
- How do you nourish yourself for the day? What do you eat/drink for breakfast?
- What do you wear? Do you apply make-up / do something with your hair? Do you have a choice of outfit? How do you feel about your work-wear?
Leaving the house
- What do you like/dislike most about leaving for work?
- What time do you leave for work? What time do you start? How do you feel about these times?
- What is your commute? What do you like/dislike about your commute to work? Be specific.
At work — morning (if you don’t work typical 9–5 hours, adjust the questions to meet the times when you work)
- What happens when you arrive at work? Does anyone greet you? How do they welcome you? How do they make you feel?
- During your morning, what tasks do you enjoy/dislike most?
- If you could change one thing about your mornings at work, what would that be?
Other areas of work where you can build questions are:
- How your job is structured — breaks/task structure
- When you leave work and how you get home
- Relationships with people at work (managers and teams)
- Reward, recognition, and development opportunities
Once you’ve answered the questions above, and any items you’ve added to the mix, review everything you’ve laid out in your map. What are the things that you’ve talked about in the most favorable light? What about negatively? What are the things that make you feel indifferent?
The key to building a career that is satisfying, is learning about yourself and what drives you, both consciously (through the diving deeper exercise) and subconsciously (through the getting to know yourself exercise).
Address the pain points
Any of the resources you use — this newsletter, books, or any online resources — require you to put time and work into better understanding you. However, that can raise issues.
Pain point #1 — I don’t have time
Time is a commodity that we all have in equal measure. Elon Musk developed Tesla, Space X, and many other initiatives in the same 24 hours that we have. Steve Jobs did the same with Apple. Oprah Winfrey and Arianna Huffington are more entrepreneurs who’ve created successful businesses in the same chunks of time that we have.
Even if you have other responsibilities, for example children or relatives to care for, there are always snippets of time either early in the morning or in the evenings. The difference between them being successful at making changes, and you being successful at making changes, is how you decide to use that time, the education you gift to yourself, and who you find to support you on your journey to new things.
A future post will explain the importance of mentors, how to find them, and how they can come in all shapes and sizes.
Pain point #2 — I don’t have a specific framework to follow
My aim for this platform is to arm you with the frameworks you need to help you to craft a career that you love. Whether that’s reshaping the job you’re currently in or finding your way to an entirely new career. These newsletters are aimed at helping you to create a more fulfilling work life.
Pain point #3 — My results don’t relate to a specific career path or job. Now what?
This is when job/career re-crafting can help. Check out my previous newsletter on how to re-craft your career to find work you love.
And, you’re on your way to a brighter future
You’ve now completed both the ‘Getting to Know You’ and ‘Diving deeper’ activities. Or, if you haven’t completed ‘Getting to Know You,’ you’ve made a start, and soon, you’ll have in-depth insights into what you and don’t enjoy at work. Armed with these insights, and information from my previous newsletter about how to re-craft your career, you are well on your way to reshaping your work so that it fulfills you.
Once you’re clearer about what you’re good at, not so good at, enjoy and don’t enjoy, you can see if those skills and desires fit into other types of careers or, if they are better suited to hobbies. You can do the same activities for your home life outside of work and potentially combine the two into a whole new work endeavor.
But, don’t expect change to happen overnight
Change takes time. While you’re assessing your current career situation, and planning what you want to do next, you need to keep paying the bills. So, don’t rush. Take your time to learn about yourself, think about what’s next, and prepare to make changes. When you’re ready to take the leap, you’ll do so with a solid plan. With persistence, courage, and a structure, you can love to work.