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From Misery to Meaning: A Career Rehabilitation Plan

meaningful1404By: Dan King

It’s Sunday night and you’ve got that familiar “pit in the stomach.”  It’s now just another weeknight.  Tomorrow you’ll return “to the grind,” begin your long, slow crawl toward “hump” day, and trudge along until, “thank God, it’s Friday” again.  Sweet freedom.

Is this what your work life has become?  A prison sentence?  Five days a week in the slammer with two days off for parole on the weekend?  If this is how you “earn your daily bread,” you better hope that someone slipped a file into the dough, because you need to break out, man.  You’ve done your time.

You expend roughly 80,000 hours of your life at work.  That’s a lot of time to put into something that drains the life out of you.  Sure you need the money, but at what cost?  You can’t just consign your life’s work to nothing more than a financial equation with the hope of somehow achieving success and happiness along the way.  Your stale work life will lead to an unhappy home life, your negative energy will wear on others and, soon, no one will want to be around you.  You’ll lead a solitary life, confined to a soulless job.  What a crime.

Victorian poet and novelist, Charles Kingsley, once said: “We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”  People who have meaningful careers, pursue their passions as fervently as they pursue their paychecks.  Meaningful work doesn’t just happen.

If you want to escape your situation and flee to a more purpose-filled future, you’ll need to commit to a consistent, continuous, career rehabilitation plan.  Here are some tips for breaking free:

Face Your Fear – For most people the idea of changing careers can be both exhilarating and terrifying.  That’s because “desire” is merely the flip side of “fear.”  Fear can paralyze you from taking action, but desire can propel you forward.  If you focus on your desire to change more than your fear of the unknown, you’ll be well on your way to freedom.

Go Your Own Way – Our early career choices are strongly influenced by our parents, teachers and friends.  We often just follow the paths that others have laid for us.  But this is not your father’s or mother’s worklife – it’s yours.  Free yourself from the crippling effects of approval from others.  It’s your life and it’s okay to live it as you please, without feeling guilty.

Confess Your Innocence – Face it – you don’t know what you don’t know.  If you knew what you don’t know, then you’d know what you need to do  (read it again).  Reduce your fear of the unknown by doing your research.  What type of career change will meet your needs? Clarify whether you need a full career change, a career shift, or an industry or sector change before you leap.

Summon Others Who Have Changed Careers – If you only stick within your inner circle (co-workers, friends, family), you’ll mostly hear reasons why you shouldn’t make the change.  They’ll tell you to play it safe.  Talk to other people who have made successful career changes.  Find out what worked for them – then copy their strategies.

Take Small Steps – It’s hard to change careers when you’re shackled to a full-time job.  You can easily lose your way.  Break the tasks down into weekly actions.  Don’t wait for a long-weekend or your vacation.  You’ll just resent not having the time to relax.  Small steps, integrated into your daily work, can produce big results over time.

Make It An Adventure – If you expect to find more enjoyable and rewarding work, then the process of seeking it out ought to be enjoyable and rewarding.  If you see this as just another chore on your “to-do” list, you’ll find reasons to avoid it.  If you can’t enjoy the process, don’t expect to enjoy the end result.

People who love their work don’t generally sit around on Sunday nights saying, “oh good, tomorrow’s another work day.”  But they’re not debilitated by the prospect of another workweek either, perhaps because they perceive of their work as more than a money machine.  Earning money, in and of itself, is not fun.  It’s how you earn it that brings the greater reward.  So, if you want a meaningful worklife, and not just a Monday through Friday sentence, you have to work at it.  There is no “get out of jail free” card.

MeaningfulCareers.com was created by Mark Guterman and Dan King, two guys with a shared commitment to the power of meaningful work.  They help professionals find greater meaning in their careers, lead happier, more satisfying lives, and instill lasting value through their work.  For more information and resources visit:  http://meaningfulcareers.com

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