Do you love what you do or are you living in new-age professional hell? This may be the seminal question of our age.
In yesterday's world, people worked 40 hours a week and took four weeks of vacation. This question was practically moot. If you didn't like your job it was pretty much part-time anyway, the benefits were glorious, and it just wasn't that bad.
I remember visiting the corporate headquarters of one of the world's most successful companies at 5 p.m. sometime in the early 80s. There was almost no one there! You could fire a cannonball down the hall and not hit anyone. Those days are gone. It was much easier to find meaning and satisfaction in activities outside of work when we were under a lot less pressure and worked far fewer hours. Not only did people have more time, they weren't as tired.
Today's professional has much different experience. Almost all of the professionals I work with are busier today than they ever have been in their lives, working 60 to 80 hours a week. They feel under more pressure than ever. Cell phones, tablets, and laptops tether us to our work wherever we are whether we like it or not. Put it all together and you quickly realize -- if you don't love what you do, you are in the new-age of professional hell where you spend your days waiting for a pause in the steady flow of work so that you can take a break. Let me tell you, that day never comes!
Making the Move to Loving What You Do
Life is too short. It's not worth it. In the new world, we don't have to love everything that we do, but we need to find happiness and meaning in most of our professional work. One of my coaching clients, Vicky, has a mind that races at about 1,000 miles an hour. She's extremely creative and entrepreneurial. Vicky was working as a division president in a large, somewhat conservative company. The people who hired her believed that they wanted someone who would "rock the boat" and "make waves." Once they began to experience "waves" and "boat rocking," though, they decided that this might not be such a great idea after all!
Although I was hired to help her fit in with the existing culture, it was just a bad match. She was becoming frustrated with her life and was frustrating many of the executives who were running the firm. Summing it up in one sentence, she groaned, "I feel like a racy Ferrari that's being asked to act like a Ford pickup!"
As her coach, my advice was simple: "Leave." She had beaten me to the punch, replying, "I just did!"
There was nothing wrong with Vicky. There was nothing wrong with her company. She just didn't belong there. When she asked herself, "Do I love what I do?" her answer was a clear, "No, I am living in new-age professional hell!"
Vicky's time off for reflection after leaving her job didn't last long. She's playing a key role in an entrepreneurial startup, she's on two boards of nonprofits doing a lot of good things for her community, and most important, she's having a lot of fun. She has successful made the move from new-age professional hell to loving what she does. And, you can too!
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Please view the Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog. The short video in the series Personal Advice; Do You Love What You Do? accompanies this article. I'll post these blogs once a week for the next 50 weeks. The series will incorporate learnings from my 38 years of experience with top executives, as well as material from my previous research, articles and books, including What Got You Here Won't Get You There, MOJO, Coaching for Leadership, and Succession: Are You Ready? The blogs will also include material from my exciting new research on engagement and my upcoming book Triggers (to be published by Crown in 2015).