At the end of every year, I get together with the girls I grew up with. As we’ve grown older we have become separated by careers, children and countries… But the moment we get together it’s like we’re 15 again.
We talk school, boys and all things on kisses and crushes past… While scouring Facebook to find out where our former childhood flames are now. And every year we write ‘The List’.
The List is a digest of everything we want to achieve the following year. So when we get together we look at what we each wrote one year ago, laugh, cry or shake our heads shamefully, and then put pen to paper again.
The way I see it, the end result of each list can be classified in two ways:
– An aspiring list based on regrets from the year before; or
– An inspiring list based on anticipation for the year to come
It always disheartens me when I see lists based on regrets from the year before: “I want to make more time for my friends and family”, “This year I want to be at all of my children’s school plays”, “I want to make it to my taekwondo class more often so that I can enter a competition”. It means you haven’t yet forgiven yourself for how you responded to the challenges you came upon that year.
I used to write those aspirational regrets lists. Then I decided to get over it.
For most people, whether you hate your job or love your career, it is usually work that is the main cause of the ‘regrets’ list. And as much as we try to not let it, sometimes we just have to accept that work does and will continue to get in the way. We are not superhuman, we cannot control everything and sometimes it really just can’t be helped. Give yourself a break.
But how can we better manage work’s relationship with our lives? How do we make sure that when we look back on 2015, we are not writing a regrets list all over again?
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) new report on Labour Market Predictions for 2015 cited that labour turnover has been decreasing and it expects it to remain low. Does that mean we are starting to become happier in the workplace? With Gallup recently reporting that 87% of workers worldwide “are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive”, I am inclined to think not. So are the majority of us destined never to find the path to a happy working life?
At this time of year, the Internet is crawling with good and bad reads on how to make work, work. Most cite that if you don’t like your job, change it. Is it that easy? J. Maureen Henderson’s recent article on Forbes takes a different perspective. She talks about how having a less fulfilling day job can work better for you. It means that in your spare time, you have the headspace to make those spare minutes creatively count; learn a language, improve your cookery skills, train for a marathon… Or if you have a well paid, potentially stressful job, you have the disposable cash to make everything outside of work more enjoyable. My thoughts are that when I have any spare time from my incredibly enjoyable but ridiculously manic consultancy work, in truth I don’t really have the energy to always get constructively creative. However, when I’ve finished a project, time out and escapism work for me. I book a trip and when I’m back, relaxed and refocused, I get back into the hobbies I love and productively plan what is next with work.
Every person and situation is different but the underlying message I have taken away from all of the various articles I have read recently is ‘change your mindset’.
If you love your job, but the intense pressure and long hours are taking you away from your friends, your family, your life – can you work smarter? Can you work from home more so you leave out the commute and are at home for dinner? Can you wake up half an hour earlier and fire off those urgent emails, instead of bringing your passion killer mobile phone and tablet to bed with you at night? Can you set the standard and let it be known loud and clear that you will be leaving the office on time as you have a commitment that evening – and then do it?
If you like your job, like the money but hate the hours, how big a step is it to go from permanent to contract, or contract to freelance?
If you dislike your job, stop moaning about it and take a good long look at why. Is it that you like your company but your role doesn’t work for you? Or you love your job but the company isn’t giving you the career development and opportunities you would like. Either-or, identify the root of the problem, make a plan and act.
Or if you’re like me, I spent 2014 thinking about how I can make my career work for me, instead of me working for my career and therefore, changed my approach. And for 2015, I have scrapped my aspiring regrets list, and have a new inspirational list based on potentially what lies ahead. It’s not absolute, but I have an idea of what needs to be achieved this year, a rough plan of how I am going to get there, a newly acquired acceptance that I am not superwoman and a broadly excited, optimistic attitude of ‘we’ll see how 2015 turns out’.
Change your mindset. Change your behaviour.