If there’s one thing I’ve noticed since launching my human resources career, it’s that no two paths are the same. Yet irrespective of field, experience or expertise, we do all share the capacity to make healthy choices and decisions towards a fulfilling life. Most of what we read about a great career touches only on the outer tactics of success and ignores the inner-compass. I’ve found my ultimate “wow” moments (in work and life) owe little to long, stressful hours. They’re more a consequence of boundary pushing and reaching beyond my comfort zone.
Here are four lessons I’ve learnt about creating a happy and rewarding professional life:
1. Listen to uncertainty and make a change
I have watched so many friends stuck in a sort of limbo, toing and froing in prolonged indecision. “I’ll just stick it out until the end of the year,” they’ll say. Or, “You know, it doesn’t feel right, but I can’t do anything about it right now”. People are paralysingly afraid of change, especially if they’ve selected a path and become overly-attached to an envisaged outcome. But doing nothing only entrenches this powerless state of being. Any thoughts about improving a “wrong direction” are neutralised without action. Clarity comes from engagement which comes from thought. Call it a chain reaction. It’s important to realise that it’s OK – and in fact, the gateway to possibilities – to adjust your course.
2. Don’t let money rule
You will not be genuinely happy in your job if you let money rule. I say that with full confidence. Focusing on income levels will suck you dry. If instead you find a role where your contributions, relationship-building and overall impact are valued, doors will open, new opportunities will emerge, and, eventually, the money will look after itself.
3. Distinguish between your social and professional self
A month ago, I took part in DISC personality profiling and discovered a lot. My high score in the “I” profile was particularly thought-provoking. I realised how, since a young age, I’ve grown to actively (and sometimes a little desperately) seek acceptance from others. I’ve read this can be referred to as the social self; that default natural setting driven by the desire to be liked. The appeal of “likeability” is drilled into us early on, and while it’s not always a bad thing, I have found that when it shows up in the workplace, it can be quite damaging. I know now that I need to make a conscious distinction between my social self and my professional self; and ask myself daily what’s more important – to be liked or to be respected and valued. This deliberate thought process is the only way I can choose who I want to be in my professional life. It helps me to not take matters too personally and appreciate the lessons in each problem or challenge – as well as to keep moving forward.
4. Celebrate others
While I feel I’ve always been attuned to recognising others’ accomplishments, wattsnext has grown my appreciation of how this works. As a team, we congratulate each other daily on the wins, big or small, and that energy helps to produce even more of these moments. I know that somehow, to allow the success of colleagues to inspire you is to attract the same success for yourself.
Reflect on the shape of a fulfilling career for you; search for that imagined feeling when you’re “successful”. While such questions may not seem immediately or easily answerable, I know I’ll persistently return to them for all the guidance I need along a career (and life) track that satisfies and sustains me. I’ve learnt to tune out to the noise of being told what we should want. A full and purposeful life happens only from the inside out.