Tag Archive for: job

Bring your full self-expression to work

In one of my earlier blogs I shared about the story of a client friend who described his work as his “8 hour inconvenience.”

Almost every week as I work with teams of all levels around the globe, I encounter a similar team dynamic: people being hesitant to express themselves boldly and passionately, especially when dealing with the sensitive issues, challenges and topics that frustrate them and stifle their productivity and effectiveness.

In fact, in most teams, bold and courageous communication is often replaced by resignation, fear and a victim mentality.  It’s not that people are cowards. It’s that in organizational settings, even courageous people tend to play a more safe and politically correct game.

I understand the root cause of this dynamic. Pretty much everyone I talk to in organizations has seen others attempt to drive change only to be blocked by people in position of authority who didn’t like the ideas. In many cases, people have personally experienced this dynamic themselves.

Most people would acknowledge that there are two basic reasons that hold them back from speaking up in meetings. They are either afraid to rock the boat and/or get into trouble, or they feel resigned about their ability to change the outcome and direction.

But, if people spend such a big portion of their life at work, how can they transform this disempowering existence? Most people spend more than 8 hours a day at work. For many, 12 hours a day is the standard.

Why can’t our work be our “12 hour bliss?” or “12 hour self expression?”

I think it can and it should!

There are a few simple things you can do right away to ensure you have bliss at work:

First, make sure you have a challenge or project at work that you genuinely love. People always rise to the occasion and express themselves with passion and enthusiasm when they are working toward a future they love, or when they are a part of a team and game that they feel committed to, and passionate about. In fact, if the game you love playing requires self-expression, passion and courage, you will be hard pressed to not rise to the occasion and passionately apply yourself.

Unfortunately, Corporate America is filled with good managers and employees who have been uninspired by what they do for so long they have stopped expecting to have bliss at work. Because they are so proficient in their jobs, they can perform them sufficiently without bringing their A game to work. They can do an acceptable job on “autopilot.”

Here is a potential self-assessment checklist you could use for working on loving your job:

  1. I believe in the purpose, end goal and activities of my job or project.
  2. I have a deep, respectful and trusting relationship with my boss, all my team members, and all my customers.
  3. I feel I can bring up and address any/all important issues and topics.
  4. I see how my direct work is impacting the bigger organizational success.
  5. I feel I have a powerful platform to make a significant difference.
  6. I feel my hard work and commitment are known, valued and recognized.
  7. I feel excited to return to work on Monday after the weekend.

Rate each item from 0 (low) to 5 (high) and then find your average. If you score 0-1 it probably means “you don’t love your job”. If you score 2-3 it probably means “you own your job” and if your score 4-5 it probably means “you love your job”.

If you don’t love what you do and you can’t get there, make sure you can at least genuinely accept, own or choose it. Your work can be nurturing even if you don’t love it. But, you have to at least make the explicit mental choice to choose and own it.

If you can’t even do that, you should leave your job. It is painful to come to work every day to do a job you don’t love or own. If you don’t make a change, you are bound to eventually become apathetic, resigned or cynical.

The only reason people stay in a job they don’t love is because they don’t believe in or trust their ability to find and/or create a greater job they do love. So, by taking action to find your dream job, you are in essence taking a stand about your greatness and your ability to create a blissful life.

I have seen many people muster up courage and change jobs, companies and even careers in order to find self-expression and bliss. Many of them had fears and anxiety about making the move. But, in all cases, people found a job they loved or at least genuinely owned. And, their action also made a significant difference in their experience of themselves.

What to expect if you want to reinvent yourself

As a part of my job, I have the privilege to coach many people at all levels of organizations; people who want to become more powerful and effective professionally and personally.

Most of the people I interact with are already very successful in what they do. But they all want to take their game to the next level; they want to change or improve something about themselves. Or as I refer to it – they want to reinvent themselves.

Reinventing ourselves is not easy. In fact, most people don’t stay the course and succeed. Have you ever heard the cynical view: “You can’t change the leopard’s spots?”

There’s definitely a science and an art to taking yourself to the next level. And while each person and his or her circumstances are different, there are some common elements that everyone could benefit from. So, if you want to reinvent yourself you need to know what to expect and how to deal with it. You need to:

1-    Tolerate things getting worst before they get better – I often tell people, “when you take a stand about reinventing yourself the universe listens and then says: “let’s see if you are serious about this.” To check you out, it throws you some initial challenges. If you overcome the ‘small’ stuff it sends you ‘medium’ level barriers. And if you stay the course and overcome these it sends you even bigger ones. But, if you overcome all three the universe concludes: “Yes, you are for real” and it starts sending you spiritual and material support to fulfill your commitment. The problem is that most people don’t stick around long enough to gain the rewards.

2-    Act and behave in counter-intuitive ways – There is a phase in the caterpillar transformation into a butterfly when it emerges from the cocoon, that life seems up side down. It still thinks as a slow crawling creature and suddenly it has only two legs and two big heavy wings on its back. What a burden! For a high strung, aggressive and driven person, staying calm and not immediately responding to a critical situation could feel quite counter-intuitive. It’s like when you learn to ski; you start falling to one side and intuitively you want to swing away. But, you are supposed to lean into the fall rather than away from it. For a driven person, staying calm feels like “laziness, complacency, dropping the ball or slacking off.” But, in order to reinvent yourself, you have to stay the course and trust the process.

3-    Stay courageous – It’s scary to reinvent your self. You are in new territory. You go through a roller coaster of emotions including fear, hopelessness and resignation. And, your mind constantly tries to persuade you to draw back, saying things like: “It wasn’t a good idea!”, “You were in over your head!”, and “What were you thinking?” So, you need to stay present and “out of your head.” And, keep reminding yourself to focus on making progress, not achieving perfection. Winston Churchill said: “Success is moving from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm”. He meant that courageous leaders stay the course regardless of their emotions or circumstances. This is required in any reinvention process.

4-    ‘Fake it till you make it’ – When I was a junior consultant at the beginning of my career, I had to wear a suit and tie to all my client engagements. I came from a small village where the dress code was extremely casual. In the first year of my career, I kept having this nagging feeling that I was out of my league, out of place and a phony. But, over time the image and role grew on me, or I grew on them. And, I started feeling at home with my new identity and role. I have experienced this cycle many times since. So, in order to succeed, you need to box yourself in, say what you’ll do and do it regardless of how you feel, even if it feels robotic or contrived. And if your mind plays tricks on you, like mine does, just say back: “Thank you for sharing” and keep going.