Some years ago while trying to recover from a financial setback I was doing some life coaching and some freelance writing. Both part-time ventures were just getting off the ground. One day I was having brunch with a small group after church and a woman asked my thoughts on how she could find a job. She was getting nervous about paying her rent. She quickly added that she wasnt about to do menial work like being a receptionist.
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At the time, unbeknownst to her, I was working part-time as a receptionist because my other streams of income were just gaining steam. I was devastated to be in that position, but was in survival mode and had fallen back on the very thing that had helped put me through college my office skills.
I didnt share this with the woman over our pancakes, fearing it would diminish my credibility as a life coach.
Funny how things change. Now I see it as an asset.
This is about learning how to work a money job and rise above any other feelings it brings up because there is a greater mission. Not just the nitty gritty stuff like feeding your kids and paying the electric bill, but reasons of deeper self-actualization that make it easier to clock in and clock out with at least a semblance of a smile on your face.
Quick note -- this isnt about giving up on having a job you love. Im always for that. But the odds of everyone working in an ideal occupation in an ideal setting for their entire adulthood is pretty slim, so Im offering an alternative outlook.
A few years ago I had a life coaching client -- lets call her Cheryl -- who wasnt happy at the salon shed been working in for over a decade. She enjoyed styling hair, but found the environment there didnt stimulate her. As part of our work together, I knew that while she looked around at other possibilities for employment we would also pay focused attention to her non-work life.
Thats because after some excavating I realized Cheryl had some solid points in the pro column for working at this particular salon. Over the months we worked together, she went about diligently checking out some other prospective employers while simultaneously putting structure around her photography goal (having a show) and her health goal (to become more fit).
The result? The more we built out her non-work life, the higher her satisfaction with her job became. After talking to other salon owners, she started to realize she had some perks where she was. In addition, she began to appreciate that it was making possible all the other things that were giving her life color and richness.
In this time when unemployment is hovering at 9% and so many people are just grateful to have jobs, its more important than ever to not give short shrift to things we enjoy in our time outside of work. This is not about balance; in fact, its about trying to get the scales on the pleasurable side of life to seriously outweigh the drudgery.
We all know the person in the office who is consistently doing -- learning to knit, volunteering at a shelter, fine-tuning a photography hobby, playing in a band -- even though he or she considers the day job a major drag. Sometimes it takes great effort and determination to put activities in motion at the end of a long work day, but my clients invariably start enjoying their lives more when they take charge of this.
I am currently working with a man who was mired in debt a few years ago. He wasnt thrilled with urban life, his job was just OK and he wasnt doing nearly enough of what he loves writing. Now, after going through debt consolidation, making a move to the suburbs, and getting a money job, he is regularly working on several writing projects. In addition, he has become involved in spiritual community groups and is occasionally leading workshops.
The key to this story is the conscious decision to seek out a money job that will make the rest of what he wants possible. Note theres a difference between that and feeling enslaved at a workplace. Its an attitude shift, but also involves relinquishing control in some areas and taking control in others. There is power in that.
What are you doing with your non-work life? What do you want to be doing with your non-work life? How do those two answers line up?
Of course this is a whole different conversation if youre so passionate about your career that its consuming your life. I must confess that for most of my adulthood Ive loved my jobs so much that I was prone to workaholic mode at the expense of bringing in some levity and light. So much of my energy went to my work.
Two major happenings helped me see what life could be. The first was a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan 15 years ago. I left there knowing urban life felt more like a fit, that making time to read was important to me, and that artists need time to just be and rejuvenate and neednt apologize for it. The second was a layoff nine years ago that led to a complete restructuring of my work life once I built it back up.
When I took that job as a receptionist, I arranged my day so that I started at 8:30 and finished at 2:30, working straight through with no lunch so I could get paid for six hours. Id leave there each afternoon and coach clients and pitch freelance pieces well into the evening.
Im not going to lie. I had to undergo quite an attitude adjustment at first. I learned that martyrdom makes you miserable to be around and can impact your health. Is that quality of life? Not for me. I realized making small changes in the hours I wasnt at my money job dramatically improved my life. Nourishing creativity and relationships became more of a priority.
Undoubtedly, assuredly an asset.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.
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