"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Cassandra Dunn's Crappy to Happy: Love What You Do is a delightful little book bursting with practical advice on making the most of your work life. The physical book is a quick read, featuring a beautiful hard-cover and quirky, colourful layout interspersed with quotes and actionable steps. These are the learnings which resonated most for me:
1. Finding pleasure and passion in your work is often more about your mindset than the job itself.
"If you are wary about the idea of finding your passion at work, I encourage you to keep an open mind. Experiencing joy and meaning have as much to do with your mindset as they do with the job itself. The way you choose to think about what you do, and whether you focus on what you can change what you can’t, make a profound difference in your level of satisfaction and the impact you have on the people around you."
2. Everything happens for a reasons - it's all part of a greater plan, even if you can't see it straight away.
"When you realise you are finally experiencing pure contentment and a deep sense of meaning, and you are fully engaged in your working life, you will understand that every challenge, every random, seemingly pointless job, every twist and turn along the path has helped you reach the place where you feel completely aligned with your soul’s purpose."
3. Nothing is certain, but there are always options.
"Learning to tolerate uncertainty and let go of the need to have a perfectly laid out plan is essential if you are going to free yourself from the feeling that you don’t have options. You always have options. What we very rarely have, though, are guarantees."
4. Often the path isn't clear, and that's ok. The key to progress is simply taking one step at a time - no matter how small.
"Except that you don’t have all the answers, and take small steps to a happier and more fulfilling work life, one step at a time."
5. Work stress is real, and you're not the only one feeling it!
"A survey conducted by the Australia Institute in 2012 found that 3.2 million Australians experienced stress and anxiety because of their work. It also found the 2.9 million people lost sleep because of work stress, and 2.2 million people said the job was having a negative impact on their personal relationships."
6. Don't underestimate the physical impact stress has on your body.
"High levels of stress over an extended period cause your body to flood with cortisol and adrenaline. The overproduction of the stress hormones can make you feel angry and irritated, or more emotionally sensitive than usual. You might experience physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension or digestive problems. Stress often affects your appetite as well as your sleep, and you might find you are increasingly relying on unhealthy coping coping strategies, such as alcohol or drugs."
7. It's ok to be where you are now, as long as that's where you choose to be.
"If the risk of making a change feels too great, you’ll likely choose the status quo, and that’s perfectly okay! What’s important is to acknowledge that this is a choice you are making for now."
8. If you feel stuck in a job or your career (and let's face it, most of us have at some point), one of the most helpful questions you can ask is "what do I need to move forward"?
"So, what is it that you need? It might be more information or it might be more self-belief. I’d hazard a guess, though, that what you’re really holding out for is more certainty. And that is the one thing you may never have."
9. If you're unhappy at work, there are always choices - and probably more than you think!
"You can make the choice to leave.
You can choose to stay and actively focus on what’s wrong, feel resentful and complain to anyone who will listen. (It’s not an option I recommend but I’m sure we can all think of plenty of times we’ve done this.)
You can stay and be proactive in changing the things you can and accepting the things you can’t. Be grateful for the aspects of your work you genuinely appreciate and the people who make it easier. Remind yourself of your values and make the decision to live by them, even in the face of difficulty."
10. Being happy at work isn't "selfish" - it's essential. Don't underestimate this. Ever.
"Pursuing work that brings you joy and meaning is not a selfish luxury. I want you to have the courage and confidence to pursue what matters to you, and to know that you have a right to feel the value and purpose. I want you to stop selling yourself short or telling yourself ‘it’s just work’. Your life matters, and if you have a vision for your future, I’d love you to believe it is possible to create it. I’m a firm believer that each of us has endless value to offer, and that the world needs the gifts that you alone can bring."
11. "Skills" and "strengths" are two different things, and it is important you understand the difference.
"Similarly, if something comes easily to you but it bores you to death or leaves you feeling drained, what you probably have is a skill, rather than a strength. Your strengths only emerge when the things you are good at are also the things you most enjoy doing. If something is truly a strength, you will seek out opportunities to engage in that activity because it is fun for you, giving you a sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction of pursuing your highest potential."
12. It's ok to "accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative" and focus on developing your strengths, not your weaknesses.
"Improving upon weaknesses is sometimes necessary and can be important for personal growth, but constantly doing things that don’t come easily to you will undermine your self-confidence and a erode your self-worth. You (and everyone else around you) will benefit from you identifying, developing and using your strengths."
13. Identify the strengths (not the weaknesses) of those around you - it will give you a new level of appreciation for your nearest and dearest.
"I also recommend observing your kids with a strengths focus. Instead of being bogged down with what’s not going well, look at what gifts and abilities they are demonstrating. You might do the same with your partner or your extended family. Appreciating people’s strengths changes your whole focus, and having other people appreciate your strengths is such a gift."
14. You won't always see your personal strengths, so seek help from others to identify your strengths.
"Often other people see strengths in you that you don’t even realise you have. That’s because when something comes very naturally to you, you tend to disregard it’s value. When you compile observations from different sources, you will begin to notice recurring themes and identify patterns that help you form a complete picture."
15. Look for every opportunity to play to your strengths.
"Look for opportunities to tailor your daily activities so that you are spending more time in your zone of genius. Something that feels difficult or onerous to you probably feels easy and enjoyable to someone else, so take every opportunity to apportion tasks in a way that allows everyone to stay in their strength zone."
16. Changing the way you think about things is always an option.
"You can change what you do, you can change how you go about doing it, or, at an absolute minimum, you can change the way you think about it."
17. Don't ever underestimate yourself - we all add value to the world in some way.
"No-one, regardless of whether you are working, studying, parenting or volunteering, should ever be using the word ‘just’ in front of their job title. There is no such thing as just a stay-at-home parent or just a receptionist or just a cleaner. Perhaps we could make it our shared mission to eliminate the word ‘just’ from our vocabulary when referring to the important work we all do."
18. Work isn't always easy - not matter how much you love what you do!
"No matter how meaningful your job is, there will always be some tasks that do not feel like they are directly adding value. It’s up to you to find the meaning and to focus on the valuable contribution you are making, even if that means you have to dig a little."
19. Take risks like a scientist
"Perhaps it would help to think of risk-taking as a form of hypothesis testing. A scientist starts every experiment with a hypothesis, which is essentially a calculated guess. If the outcome of the experiment does not support the hypothesis, the scientist doesn’t take it personally. Instead, they review the data, form a new hypothesis, and test it. Guessing and testing, reviewing and evaluating – this is the way forward."
20. Finding balance in life is like sailing a boat
"I imagine the boat tilting in the direction required to keep wind in the sails so that the boat keeps moving forward. A sailboat doesn’t move in a straight line, but when you know where you’re going and you’re able to keep your eye on the horizon, it doesn’t matter if you need to be in one direction or another for a short time, so long as you course-correct as soon as you’re able to. If you feel as though your life is out of balance, it usually means you’ve strayed too far of course."
Now is the opportune time to pick up this book, as it perfectly complements any goal-setting or career aspirations for the year ahead.
The finish line is in sight, but it feels like many of us just need that extra little push (or a fruit mince pie or two) to get us over the line. Over the next couple of weeks I'll be sharing some of the tips and things I'll be doing to stay on track so I can finish this challenging year on a high. I'd love to hear how you're travelling over this last month of 2020, so I encourage you to share your tips and experiences in the comments as we go:-) Here's to the end of this year!
I saw this quote today and it really resonated, because I feel like much of 2020 has been spent chasing lots of bunnies - uncertain times seem to draw the bunnies out!
"If you run after two hares you'll catch neither." - Proverb
Don't get me wrong, most of these bunnies have lead to awesome opportunities, but I can't help wonder if I would have arrived where I was headed sooner if I'd have focused more. This is what I'll be doing in December. I'm working on two main work projects and THAT'S IT! Here's how I'm going to stay focused this month:
1. Remove things from my To Do List
A wise mentor recently challenged me to "remove" some things from my To Do List, rather than adding anything to it, or trying to complete it. It's a genius idea, because it really challenges our thought patterns. We are so focused on trying to get through the list, rather than challenge the necessity of everything on the list in the first place. Removing items from your list could simply mean renegotiating deadlines to next year, or delegating so the job still gets done, and you maintain your sanity. What can you remove from your To Do List?
To ensure the things I need to do don't get pushed aside, I'm going to schedule them in my diary. This includes self-care activities, such as exercising, sleeping, meditating, eating well, etc. I've planned out the days I plan on running and going to the gym, and will make sure I attend my chiro appointment, etc. When we get busy, self-care activities are often the first to fall by the wayside (especially sleep!), which is why we often fall ill. The work will happen - that's a given. It's the other things keeping the wheels on the wagon we need to focus on.
3. Less is more
For me, the joy of the Christmas lies in connecting with people face-to-face (which has been challenging this year) by catching up over a drink or a meal. Because a number of the annual events I usually go to at this time of year have been cancelled, the events that remain have become even more precious. I am planning on attending these events with gusto and energy (rather than hoping from one event to another as in previous years), and won't feel guilty for doing so.
These are the three ways I'm going to focus over the next few weeks, I'd love to hear about your plan of attack for the rest of the year - please share in the comments below...
Those chats in the office kitchen can have more benefit than we initially realised, says Abbey Robb. Here are Abbey's top working from home tips to keep us relaxed and performing at our peak:
1. Make a designated space your office space
You don’t need to have a large house to make this work. It’s ideal if you can set up a room as an office, or allocate one end of the dining table as your work area, but even if you can’t it’s enough to make sure that you sit in a different part of the lounge room than you tend to gravitate towards when you’re relaxing. Give yourself that visual cue that this area is for work, and other parts of your home are for relaxing and you’ll find it much easier to switch off of an evening.
2. Build a routine into the end of your workday
Spend some time to mentally divest yourself of the work you’ve been doing and leave things neatly organised for when you return in the morning. This is especially important when working from home because again, those cues that signal to us that it's time to mentally switch focus aren't there anymore.
Dr. Adam Fraser, a peak performance researcher, recommends a specific 3-step routine to shift focus and be more present. The three stages are:
Reflect - spend a little time finishing up your day, making a list of things that need to be done in the future and emptying all those tasks out of your mind. It can also be useful to ask yourself a couple of questions like 'what did I do well today?' 'How did I get better?' This helps people start to change their thinking away from worrying about the future to having a sense of satisfaction for their efforts.
Rest - take a little time to do something that helps you rest. That might be going for a walk, doing a crossword puzzle or making yourself a snack. Find something that works for you to give yourself a bit of mental space and relaxation.
Reset - take a few moments to orient your thoughts towards your home life, your goals and values and how you want to show up there. Allow yourself time to shift priorities and focus on what your intentions are. Maybe you want to really connect with your partner, spend quality time with your kids or celebrate something with a friend.
3. Manage your stress levels
If you don't already have practices in your life that support stress management, find something that works for you - exercise, a hobby, meditation, or journaling. Often we unconsciously divest ourselves from stress through interacting with the social connections that we have at work without even thinking about it. Those chats in the office kitchen are more important than most people realise!
Abbey is an award-winning Integrative Therapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist. She specialises in helping people effect fast and lasting change in their lives. Learn more at www.abbeyrobbtherapies.co.uk
For many of us, working from home means we have acquired additional time that was previously allocated to commuting to and from work. We love Natasha's tip of using this time for exercise, which becomes an excellent transition period between work and home time. Natasha shares more of her helpful tips below:
1. Stick to your normal work routine as much as possible!
Get up at the same time as you would a normal workday, put on some make up, get dressed into smart casual clothes. This is all about mindset and ensuring you have cues that tell your brain you are at work.
2. Have a workstation set up
This is important to me, as the WFH line between work and home is blurred. My office/desk area symbolises work and when I am way from my desk I am at home. At the beginning of working from home I never really got the time to shut off, my computer was in my lounge room and I found myself jumping on to check email late into the evening. It's about quality not quantity, and a clean, relaxing and inspiring work space has really helped me remain productive. It also helps that I have a Snacks With Bite snack box at my desk, so I don’t go wandering into the kitchen and get distracted.
3. Use your commute time wisely
A good portion of my day used to be commuting to work. Now working from home, I have started using my commute time to exercise. The commute home was where I would decentralise from the workday and switch into my personal time. I have really benefited from exercising; it really helps with stress and boost my mood.
Natasha is the CEO of Snacks With Bite, an Australian based healthy snack delivery subscription service for home and offices.
I'm an early riser, and a big advocate of allocating some time for myself in the morning, rather than jumping straight into emails, which is also one of Alison Roberts-Tse's working from home tips. "As a freelancer, as well as an employee who has been working from home during the pandemic, my top three tips when working from home include":
1. Wake up a little earlier for a bit of ‘you’ time before logging in
Although you may be tempted to roll out of bed just before you need to sign in and begin your work, it’s healthier to allow yourself a bit of personal time before you dive into your business inbox. Normally, you’d mull over personal issues during your commute to and from work; but without one, you should schedule some time to decompress.
2. Leave your snacks in the kitchen
The benefits are two-fold. It will prevent absent-minded over-eating; and it will encourage you to get up throughout the day. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to stay glued to your seat. Even short breaks away from the screen allow you to stretch your muscles and give your eyes a chance to rest.
3. Keep your desk clean
There’s a good chance that your home desk is covered with personal items, as well as your necessary work from home kit. A cluttered desk makes focusing difficult, so when you ‘transition’ to work every day, remove items that are potentially distracting.
Alison Roberts-Tse is the founder and editor of Dance Dispatches, a digital publication that celebrates dance around the world.
I am a huge fan of setting alarms in my phone - not just for appointments, but as a trigger for other beneficial activities throughout the day. This might be a motivational mantra, or a reminder for a self-care activity, such as meditation or exercise. I love Melissa's use of alarms to structure her day, as well as her other working from home tips below:
1. Have a daily routine for work days and set multiple alarms to help you stick to it
For example, set four alarms a day to remind you of a) your shower at 8am, b) to log on at 9am c) have lunch at 12.30pm and d) log off at 5pm.
You may be more likely to keep to your routine if you’ve already made a personal promise to yourself, in this case, by way of setting a number of alarms.
2. Get fresh air and twenty minutes of sunshine every day where possible
The D- Minder App can help you determine how much sun is good for you without burning.
3. Have at least 2 hours of wind down time before sleep
No computers, no emails, no phones. Get someone else in the home to change your passwords until the morning of you have to.
Dr Melissa Keogh is a Sydney based clinical psychologist in private practice, writer/columnist and media commentator. Learn more at www.drmelissakeogh.com.au