Finding work that I enjoyed was a huge struggle for me. You could say that I tried everything in the book. Books, personality tests, strengths tests, workshops, different kinds of coaching.
Some worked and but a lot didn’t. Here’s how I finally found career happiness and how you can do it, too.
When I was in school one of the biggest overarching messages that we learned was that “the right answer” was always outside of us. It might come from our teachers, our parents, or our textbooks, but it was always something out there that we needed to download into our brains.
We often carry that habit of looking out there with us in our professional lives. But when we look to others for career guidance, we often end up in jobs that make us feel empty, unsatisfied, or miserable. Other peoples’ dreams can be your nightmare.
The only way to find lasting career happiness is to begin within. You’ve got to look at what energizes and engages you, what matters to you. This is deeply personal and no one can answer these questions for you. If the answer is “I don’t know,” it usually means that you’ve lost touch with yourself. (This is a real thing and it has real consequences.)
If you don’t know who you are and what matters to you, put that at the top of your priority list. Otherwise, time will pass and you’ll end up feeling like a robot. That would be a shame because there IS work that would energize you, mean something to you, and help others too. You should be doing it.
It wasn’t until I decided to make decisions about what was most important to me that I began to get happier in my work.
Long before I left my firm job to become a coach, I began making changes to live in alignment with my top values and priorities. I used my inner compass as a guide, rather than well-meaning but ill-fitting advice from others.
It made all the difference.
Let Go of the Guilt
When I was trying to figure out what to do, I had a lot of judgment going on in my head about my desire for something different:
• I have way more than so many people, I should just be grateful.
• I’ve got a great team. Why can’t that be enough?
• Most people don’t like their jobs, why can’t I just accept where I’m at?
• What if try something new and it doesn’t work out?
But when you feel unhappy at work and then you feel guilty for it, you only spin your wheels even more. And what good does that do? None whatsoever.
Here’s the truth. Your happiness matters. People who are happy at work make a bigger impact both in the work itself and on the people around them.
If you’re unhappy, you can’t serve your clients at your highest level. When your brain is mired in negativity, it’s low on creativity, enthusiasm, and problem-solving. You also deprive the people in your life of a happy version of you. The happy parent, partner, family member, and friend that you want to be.
Try this reframe: If you’re feeling stuck or unhappy at work, it’s actually your duty to get unstuck. You doing this not only for yourself and your family, but also for the people you want to serve. They’re waiting for you.
There’s Not a “Right” Way – But There Is A Way
When I was stuck in my career rut, I wasted a lot of time thinking that I had to find the “right” way out. The one single career path that would be perfect for me. But nothing felt like the “right” path, so I just stayed stuck.
Because I stayed stuck, I would sometimes start to wonder if I would ever find a way out. Maybe there was NO path. Maybe I would never find happiness in my career! (Cue internal panic.)
Neither of these thoughts served me. I know now that there’s more than one path that leads to career happiness. Believing that I had to get it “right” only slowed my progress.
Likewise, believing that you’ll never find a way out makes you more entrenched. Even if it takes time to figure it out, you will save yourself years of unhappiness if you begin NOW. The only thing that’s required is a simple decision: I WILL get there. Because once you make that decision and follow up with consistent action, you will.
Find the Root Cause
When solving for career unhappiness, you’ve got to identify the exact root cause. There’s no other way to get a permanent solution.
Case in point: serial job changers. When I work with clients who change jobs every few years but are still miserable, there are always deeper issues at play. They’ve usually tried everything. A new boss, a new firm, a new team, a new role, or a new practice area. When those changes don’t create lasting happiness, there’s always an underlying reason.
It’s like trying to treat an infection with Tylenol. You can dull the pain but it’s going to continue to fester until you identify the real issue and treat it the right medicine.
One of my clients had been feeling miserable for years, even though he had tried lots of different jobs. He really liked his company, his boss, and his team. So why was he unhappy? We did some digging and discovered three main issues. He wanted more client interaction, fewer overlapping responsibilities with other team members, and fewer meetings. He also discovered that he wanted to feel more purposeful in his life and he had been relying on his career to provide that.
Once he understood the root causes of his unhappiness, the solutions became obvious. He was able to pivot his role at work after having a few simple conversations. He also made the decision to be more purposeful in how he spent his time, both at work and at home. Once we were able to get to the root cause, he reported enjoying his work and his life more than he had in years and having more energy. Years of struggle evaporated within a few months.
Those results are typical. That’s why causal coaching is so useful. It gets to the root cause, which is usually hidden in the blind spots that you yourself can’t see.
You don’t have to struggle for years. You can fast-track your career happiness identifying the real issues right away. If you’re struggling with getting happier at work, I invite you to schedule a free call with me. You’ll walk away with clarity and a personalized plan to help you get exactly what you want. You can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what’s going on for you.