5 Work Life Rules That Stand the Test of Time

Alexander Schimmeck @unsplash

As a coach, it is vital to reflect upon my own work life and learn from its experiences. Ultimately, offering advice without introspection — could read as empty & hollow. As with most career journeys, there have surely been highs & lows. I’ve held roles that were for the most part glorious, where work felt like an expansion. I’ve also found myself in roles that were challenged from the start, leading to doubt and exhaustion.

All in all, no matter what the cards hold for us — there are constants that should be present to sustain us. These elements provide the foundation to both endure & expand.

Here are a few I’ve noticed.

  • Practice radical self-knowledge. I’ll be blunt. I only refer to this dynamic as radical — because we usually fail to truly understand ourselves, which deeply affects our journey going forward. Of course, no one can fulfill this for you. (Self-knowledge is essentially a labor of love.) This begins with monitoring your levels or energy, then understanding what feeds your workplace soul & what ultimately drains it. It is building in moments of pause to reflect on how we respond and change. There is no substitute. (When I work with teams, we never broach collective team dynamics until we complete the individual discovery process.)
  • Work where your skills & strengths are valued. Organizations are needy creatures, lopsidedly offering rewards (both intrinsic & extrinsic) when specific skills are required. For most of us, we’ll find ourselves in situations where the alignment of our skills & an organization’s current needs, is not present. Know that your strengths remain worthy — they are simply not simpatico with the business landscape of the organization in which you currently work. Recognizing this fact can protect you from harsh self-judgement and could free you to move along to thrive somewhere else.
  • Find career advocates (other than yourself). Self-reliance is obviously an important aspect of career evolution. For example, you must be able to reflect upon & communicate your core needs & goals. However, other perspectives of what is unfolding for you career-wise will benefit your journey (a 30,000 foot view for example, is vital). This article published at HBR, aptly discussed the notion of a career “Board of Directors”. These would be people who do not work with you directly, but are able to weigh in on career matters when needed. Start with 2 or 3 people who might offer opinions that you trust & respect. Try to avoid making career decisions in a vacuum. This will invariably backfire.
  • Make a habit of envisioning your future. One of the most useful articles I’ve read in the last 10 years is this one: You Need to Practice Being Your Future Self This piece tells the story of how we become mired within our current career context and fail to envision ourselves differently. While it is well and good to address current issues at work, this leaves little room for what could come next. Until we devote time to ignite our powers of imagination regarding work life — it can be difficult to grow.
  • Finding moments of excitement. Personally, I’m fine doing the difficult, and sometimes tedious tasks of my role. However, I find moments of exhilaration are necessary to sustain me. A pounding heart before a client presentation. The thrill of a new data set. Whatever excites you at work needs to be present, if at all possible. These moments may be indeed be rare indeed — but they fuel the work life soul.

Have I missed something? Please share it in comments.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist & speaker regarding the dynamic nature of work life. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her consulting practice helps people, teams & organizations build stronger work life foundations through the practice of core stability. Her thoughts on work life have also appeared at the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, BBC Work Life, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

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