Executive Coaching Articles

Work Hard No More

In a recent survey of 180,000 American workers, more than 80% indicated an intense dislike for their jobs. This is truly a sad reflection on an activity that absorbs a major portion of our lives.

Maybe it’s time for a conscious reassessment of our philosophy towards work. It seems to me that many of us are simply working too hard with too little to show for our labor.

Why are we influenced to “work so hard?” One client recently related to me, “I’ve never been afraid to work hard in order to get the pie in the sky I’ve always dreamed of. I’ve always been focused on what I want from life and doing the things I think I need to do in order to get there. Thus, I believe putting in long hours now will help me obtain a level of financial security that will give me the freedom not to work so hard in the future.”

As you can see, hard work is such a strong, deep-seated value in today’s competitive workplace that it refuses to let go. Many of my clients enjoy the work they do, but deep down they think they need to work even harder in order to meet specific goals such as achieving financial security. Their entire universe revolves around working hard, rather than using work as a vehicle to achieve personal fulfillment from both their careers and personal lives.

For all of you who are working too hard, I have one important question: “What is your rate of return?” In the financial world, the annual rate of return is justified in terms of profits yielded on the initial amount of capital invested. Quite simply, if there is little rate of return then the money invested was wasted.

In gauging personal fulfillment on the job, rate of return translates into the amount of time you have to spend working hard to reach a projected outcome. Whether you want to spend more time with your family, take early retirement, or enjoy your dream vacation, if you’re working more and still not achieving your most important objectives, then all your sweat is wasted.

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For all of my clients looking to escape this dead end scenario, I ask them to evaluate their workday in terms of three words impacting them the most on a daily basis:

  1. Active
  2. Doing
  3. Pursuing

When you work too hard your career is all about being active, doing, and pursuing your goals. You are constantly accumulating unnecessary baggage and reinforcing stale ideas. The key to positive change is to practice doing the exact opposite. The opposite of active, for example, is inactive For doing, it’s being; and for pursuing, it’s being comfortable with what you already have, rather than searching for something else.

So how do we move beyond feeling our only work enjoyment occurs at the morning coffee break, lunch, quitting time, happy hour, and payday? Will Rogers believed that in order to succeed, “You must know what you are doing, like what you are doing, and believe in what you are doing.” His suggestions deserve a closer look.

Know What You’re Doing

All too many people approach their jobs like a mosquito in a nudist camp…they see lots of opportunity but can’t decide where to start. Instead, place your primary emphasis on the most fulfilling parts of your job. Apply your talents. Become an expert. Excel.

Like What You’re Doing

What most of my coaching clients come to realize is that if they are participating in activities they really enjoy, then work doesn’t seem so much like work. In other words, the secret to happiness, success, satisfaction, and fulfillment through our jobs is not doing what we like, but liking what we do.

Believe In What You’re Doing

In general, successful people are not in a job looking for something to do. They choose their profession in order to accomplish something meaningful. This prerequisite is difficult to explain to those poor souls sitting back and watching the clock until it’s “Miller time.” But the fortunate individuals who are working to satisfy their deepest passions, rather than for an hourly wage, know exactly what it means. Any satisfaction, fun, and fulfillment you experience on the job are fringe benefits you give yourself.

The secret to transforming your daily “have-to-do’s” into “want-to-do’s” is to find answers to two very important questions: (1) What do I want from my life’s work? and (2) What am I willing to do to make it happen? Therein rests the self-fulfilling formula we need to love our jobs and never have to work another day for the rest of our lives.